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UN IVERSITY 

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SACKCLOTH AND BROADCLOTH. 



A NOVEL. 



BY 



JEAN MIDDLEMASS, 

AITHOR OF ' WILD GEORGIE,' ' SEALED BY A KISS,' ' INNOCENCE AT PLAY, 

ETC., ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 



VOL. I. 



TINSLEY BROTHERS, 

CATHERINE STREET, STRAND, 

LONDON, 

I 88 I. 



\^All Rights reserved.^ 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH. 







^ Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 




CHAPTER I. 

c^ GUIDE, PHILOSOPHER, AND FRIEND. 

UID brevi fortes jaculamus sevo 
Multa," if one may be allowed 
the seeming incongruity of 
quoting Horace to a lady,' and the Rev. 
Lawrence Sivewright lounged luxuriously in 
his chair as though thorough enjoyment was 
^ the ne plus ultra of life. 

^ * My dear father had me initiated in a 

^little Latin. I suppose you mean that more 

^ work would exhaust your vitality and deepen, 

^before middle age, the furrows on your brow.*^' 

^said Mrs Desborough in a soft voice, point- 

^ VOL. I. A 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 



ing her words with just that happy admixture 
of compHment and sneer, of which only a 
woman knows the proportions. 

The vicar laughed — for he was the vicar 
of the parish, this elegant disciple of Epicurus 
— and he was quite fifty, notwithstanding Mrs 
Desborough's kindly allusion to the date 
when he should reach the usually long halt- 
ing place between youth and old age. 

* Only dry wood burns steadily,' he an- 
swered, using metaphor, a mode of speech in 
which he frequently indulged. ' Why intro- 
duce damp twigs which are the mere offshoots 
of young half-grown trees, unless for the sake 
of squandering your energies by the perpet- 
ual use of the bellows ? ' Mrs Desborough 
shrugged her shoulders ; but before we follow 
their conversation sufficiently to reach its 
subject-matter, a sketch in black and white of 
place and people were perhaps convenient. 

Vantage Park is a grand old seignorial 
estate, situated in a northern county about 



Guide, Philosopher, and Friend. 3 

twelve miles from the sea. An architectural 
digression, long enough to form a volume in 
itself, might be made out of its gables, archi- 
traves, corbels, mullions and gargoyles, not 
to allude to more than one stirring epoch of 
which those ancient walls have been mute 
witnesses in times gone by. But in the year 
of grace 1869, the possessors of Vantage 
Park, endowed to the fullest with this world's 
goods, had made it the abode of luxury and 
modern art. True, the squire loved the tra- 
ditions of his race and name, and secretly 
revered the old pile for its time-honoured 
descent ; nay, it is even whispered that he 
made a daily pilgrimage to a particular 
column, whereon was faintly inscribed a date 
that conveyed a twelfth-century recollection 
to his mind. But of the cheery pleasant- 
tempered artistic little squire anon. ' He is 
but a cipher in the great account' 

Mrs Desborough holds the reins, and 
governs house and lands. 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



Sitting gracefully on a satin sofa, knitting 
usefully for the poor, and talking, oh ! so 
softly and complacently to the vicar, Mrs 
Desborough, with her calm white counten- 
ance, matronly figure undulating with creamy 
lace, and her genial smile, scarcely looks 
a formidable dame. Still, given the velvet 
exterior which charms and holds a fresh 
acquaintance captive, her eyes — mark ! we did 
not speak of eyes In the pleasant picture — 
they are usually half shut, under drooping 
lids, but seldom are they allowed to tell the 
latent thought ; besides, although you scarcely 
own it even to yourself, there Is a barricade 
of manner between you and Mrs Desborough. 
It arises probably from a consciousness of 
her own superiority, which she cannot help 
displaying — unwillingly It Is true, for Mrs 
Desborough spreads her net to please, though 
she Is the mother of two grown-up sons. 
She likes what she calls the intellectual 
companionship of men — perhaps she does not 



Guide, Philosopher, and Friend. 5 

altogether stop there — and craves something 
more than mental flattery in her relations 
with the sterner sex ; but, alas ! Mrs Des- 
borough was born 2iprecieuse, and in display- 
ing too freely her blue stockings, well-shaped 
though the feet and ankles are they encase, 
she loses the power of mere womanliness. 

History, chronology, especially as to the 
births, deaths, and marriages of her ac- 
quaintances, linked with an unconquerable 
predilection for the Dutch school of word 
painting, are characteristics, taken collec- 
tively, which must nip in the bud as a keen 
March wind, any utterances of tenderness. 
What so freezing as a tedious detail — a long 
episode of the reign of Phillipe le Bel, care- 
fully elaborated, or more annihilating than a 
wordy lecture on the absolute necessity of 
being useful to your fellows ? No, Mrs 
Desborough in her efforts to be admired, 
lost the chance of being loved. 

Yet the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright, vicar 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



of Fernwood-cum-Grasdale, a fat living in 
the gift of the owner of Vantage Park, was 
on terms of close Intimacy with the lady of 
the house. It was an alliance based on the 
usual premises, antithetical opinions ; hence 
argument was the pumice stone which pre- 
vented rust from corroding their friendship. 

Vantage Park, with Its ever hospitable 
reception, was a pleasant lounge for the 
vicar, who appreciated fully the comfortable 
appointments of the establishment, the 
luscious wines of which the cellar boasted, 
and above all what he was wont to call 
the * ambrosia/ provided by M. Baptlste, 
who was a veritable cordon bleu. Not 
that Mr Sivewright's bachelor surroundings 
were very Inferior In luxury to those of the 
great house, for this modern Lucullus, with 
his classical proclivities and self-indul- 
gent — we had almost written sensual — 
habits, had metamorphosed the vicarage Into 
an abode of luxury which more resembled 



Guide, Philosopher, and Friend. 7 

a villa of old Tusculum than the working 
quarters of a plain steady-going English 
clergyman. Mr Sivewright's appearance 
was in strict accordance with his tastes. He 
was tall, in his youth had probably been 
slight ; but now his embonpoint almost 
amounted to obesity, though it could never 
degenerate into coarseness, for seldom does 
high breeding stand in such good stead as 
when age or indulgence have banished the 
more transitory attributes of humanity. Mr 
Sivewright had a noble head, a calm philo- 
sophic brow ; his hair, which was iron grey, 
grew plentifully, and just turned into a curl, 
perhaps naturally ; it were scarcely seemly 
in so dignified a personage to hint at art ; 
yet only valets know the trifles by which 
great triumphs are completed. His face 
was closely shaven, the dark well-formed 
eyebrows, and the clear speaking eyes were 
its chief beauties. The nose was Roman, 
and well-nigh perfect in shape, yet the 



8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

possibility of an ideal man vanished as you 
looked at the full ruddy lips with their 
epicurean expression. 

Dress manifestly was one of Mr Sive- 
wright's especial studies, and not only was he 
never seen with a speck or flaw on his broad- 
cloth, but the form and texture were to him mat- 
ters of interest ; nor did he rigidly, except on 
state occasions, adhere to the ordained church- 
man's garb, as did his neighbour and dear 
brother in orders, the Rev. Mr Lently, even to 
exaggeration, almost amounting to caricature. 

As Mr Sivewright sits now in Mrs Des- 
borough's morning-room, quoting Horace in 
that clear, well-educated voice of his which, 
together with his elegant scholarship, might 
with more energy have made him an orator, 
he feels that the ground on which he rests is 
trembling as if by electricity — he is sensible 
of disruptive signs — an earthquake is at 
hand. His long white fingers paddle among 
his silvered locks, and he mentally observes 



Guide ^ Philosopher, and Friend. 9 

that there has been an interview between Mrs 
Desborough and his reverend brother Lently, 
whom he ever designates as the disturber 
of peace. It is against Mr Sivewright's 
creed to give way to strong language and 
vituperative epithets. Yet Ritualism is his 
bHe noire, he endures it with a smile and 
denounces it more in acts than words, though 
never perhaps does he feel more inclined to 
throw off his apathy and fight for his rights, 
than when the Rev. Luke Lently, the ritual- 
istic thunderer of the adjacent parish, 
makes a descent on Vantage Park and seeks 
to convert the lady of the house to his 
peculiarly limited views. 

Mrs Desborough is angry. She shrugs 
her shoulders and knits very fast ; but, like 
her classical friend, she has her feelings 
under command, and for a moment or two 
she does not speak. 

* What does he mean by damp twigs and 
bellows ? If any one ever wanted rousing 



I o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

he does himself. It Is the old story of the 
mote and the beam/ At last she breaks out, 
darting with woman's love of sudden digres- 
sion into another branch of the subject. * It 
is not that I hold all Mr Lently's views, 
though I think there is much good in some 
of them ; but I do wish I could see a little 
new work begun in this parish.' 

' Heaven forbid ! ' fervently ejaculated the 
vicar. 

' My dear Mr Sivewright, you need not 
disturb yourself. I shall be only too happy 
to qualify for a machine. Giving the people 
objects of interest and usefulness would help 
to smooth away some of the difficulties of 
one's own life.' 

And she sighed as though the last part of 
the sentence was pregnant with meaning. 
The vicar declined the hidden interpretation 
by a straightforward answer. 

' Increase them tenfold, you mean, my dear 
friend, by setting an immense amount of 



Gtiide, Philosopher, and FiHe^id. 1 1 

parochial machinery In motion which you 
will be powerless to stop. All these Innova- 
tions are, as you know, quite against my 
conservative views. Let us keep the people 
as they were primitively, '' hewers of wood 
and drawers of water ! " These so-called re- 
forms only defeat their own ends, and render 
the profanum vulgus totally unfit for duty. 
Progression applied to the lower orders is 
the crying mistake of the century ; feed them, 
clothe them if you like, but — ' 

' Really, Mr Sivewright, this is going too 
far. Has not every healthy child that is 
born a heart and head as well as a stomach ? 
What did Heaven make them for ? ' 

* Use naturally ; but not use artificially. If 
you turn a common field flower into an exotic, 
it is no longer a field flower. It becomes a 
specimen of a totally different plant, unless, 
indeed, It dies in the forcing. Since Provi- 
dence has instituted diversity, why should we 
attempt to establish oneness by lowering 



1 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

ourselves to the level of the masses, which 
we must necessarily do in our endeavours 
to raise them to our standard. Against all 
this abominable democracy nature rebels.' 

* But they have souls to save ! ' 

Mr Sivewright bowed his head and looked 
at his filbert nails. 

* They worship Heaven in the fulness of its 
power, its works, its benefits — in fact, what 
more do you want ? ' 

' But Mr Lently says — ' 

A smile spread itself over Mr Sivewright's 
countenance ; he looked radiant when most 
men would have been angry. 

' With your erudition, your broad free 
views, your capability for grasping the truth, 
I am surprised that you should do more than 
feel amused by the study of Lently 's " Guide 
to Heaven." Poor fellow ? ' 

' Mr Lently is very zealous, he can scarcely 
fail to reach the desired goal, while we — Mr 
Sivewright, I am beset by many scruples.' 



Guide, Philosopher, and Friend. 13 

* Since this morning. Mr Lently lunched 
here, I fancy ? ' 

* You do not object to my indulging occa- 
sionally in a little conversation with those 
who do not altogether think as you do ? ' 
asked the lady very humbly. 

' Certainly not, my dear Mrs Desborough, 
certainly not. " Truth loves open dealing." 
If you or any of my parishioners feel that 
you are made happier by following the road 
of which Mr Lently has installed himself as 
signpost, pray do not let me be considered 
for a moment in the matter. My desire is 
that every one should discover what he or she 
feels to be the truth. All minds are not con- 
stituted alike — to some it is veiled in spiritual 
types, to some it is clear and unhidden.' 

* Ah ! ' said Mrs Desborough, as though 
her thoughts were beyond expression in 
words, and she laid her knitting in her lap, 
and folded her hands over it. 

Mr Sivewright's was pleasant, gentleman- 



1 4 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

like, easy teaching. She would follow it 
gladly, if only that Mr Lently would not cross 
her path, and by uprooting all her calcula- 
tions, fill the air with scruples, and bring 
about those occasional small earthquakes 
which dislodged, for a time at least, all the 
placidity and geniality of the social relations 
of life. 

' Then there is Matthew,' she observed 
after a short pause. It seemed a somewhat 
illogical remark, but to the initiated it had its 
sequence, as Mr Sivewright's answer proved. 

* Matthew is passing through the unstable 
period of extreme youth — his principles are 
by no means fixed. You surely would not 
allow him to influence you ? ' 

' Yet he is going to take orders.' 

' Just so — in time. Before that time 
arrives there may be many changes.' 

' Really, Mr Sivewright, you are not en- 
couraging to-day ; and from such a friend as 
you are, I always look for help.' 



Guide, Philosopher, and Friend, 1 5 

* Yet you sip the waters of every fountain, 
and imagine each one a Hippocrene/ 

* Pardon me, when poetry and the arts 
are in question, I never desert you ; but you 
are scarcely the Delphic oracle — is it not a 
voice rather than a mere human friend one 
wants to reveal the secrets of mystic life ? ' 

* Thereon hangs the whole question of a 
priesthood.' 

And Mr Sivewright rose as though the 
priestly dignity were one which his shoulders, 
developed though they were — yet scarcely 
felt broad enough to carry. 

The interruption was timely, for the sound 
of voices in the hall told of an arrival, and 
in another moment Mrs Desborough was 
in the arms of her eldest son, who for some 
months had been abroad seeing a little life 
on his own account — a good deal more than 
was good for him, if the truth were told. 

* My darling George ! ' and she looked 
into his face and smoothed the hair off his 



1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

brow, as though she would still find the 
baby among his features, for George w^as 
Mrs Desborough*s favourite child, ' the 
glory and the darling of the old manorial hall.' 
'You look charming, mother. How are 
the rest ? Is Matt going to take orders, 
young noodle ? I beg your pardon, Mr 
SIvewright, but you know you are an ex- 
ception. I always forget you are a parson. 
I have got lots to tell you. You'll ask me 
to dinner some night at the vicarage ; won't 
you ? ' 

* Yes, my dear young friend, whenever you 
like, so long as you bring a contribution to 
the feast In the form of anecdote.' 

* Ay will I, and good stories too.' 

And they shook hands warmly, for the 
vicar would have accused himself of want 
of tact If he had Intruded farther on the 
tite-a-tete, In which he believed, and truly, 
that mother and son would gladly Indulge 
after a long separation. 



K 



CHAPTER II. 



TABLE TALK. 




N a I'age de son coeur,' they say. 
This being so, Mrs Desborough 
was on the sunny side of thirty, 
whereas, in reaHty, she had completed her 
fifth decade ; but impressionable natures are 
apt to maintain perpetual youth, and Mrs 
Desborough was very sensible to impres- 
sions. Her character presented a curious 
mixture of cleverness and weakness ; in fact, 
she might have been in danger of passing 
for rather a silly woman, but for her rare 
educational advantages ; consequently her 
mind ran riot on theories instead of trifles. 
She was more or less under the mental 

VOL. I. B 



1 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

dominion of the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright, 
though, for the sake of argument, she usu- 
ally fought his opinions at every issue. 

To-day, however, Mr Lently has had his 
turn, and been listened to with a degree of 
interest which has made him almost believe 
in the conversion of the mistress of Vantage 
Park ; but already a counter power has 
sprung up in the person of her son George, 
than whom Mr Sivewright could not have 
a more able coadjutor. The dinner-bell has 
just been rung, and Mrs Desborough sails 
in her soft quiet way into the room to join 
the family party there assembled before 
dinner. The squire and his son are talking 
on the hearthrug. 

* The dinner-bell has rung ages. Whom 
are we waiting for ? ' asked George, after 
some minutes had been passed in farther 
conversation with the squire, his mother 
meanwhile looking out of the window. 

' For Matthew, I suppose ? ' 



Table Talk. 



' Matthew ? Since when has he become 
a defaulter in hours ? Where is he ? We 
surely are not going to wait for him ? ' 
and this time George addresses his father. 

* Mr Matthew has not come in yet,' at 
this moment announces the butler, ' and 
dinner is served.' 

Matthew Desborough was like his mother, 
precise in matters of detail, vague and shifty 
in opinions, while he possessed even more 
than her natural amount of cleverness. His 
present absence was then the more remark- 
able, in that it was unusual. If George had 
been late or not forthcoming at dinner time, 
no one would have observed it ; but with 
Matthew the case was different, and each 
of the family formed his or her own con- 
clusions as to the cause as they went in 
to dinner. 

Matthew, during a long and highly dan- 
gerous illness, had been converted to Mr 
Lently's tone of thought, but had scarcely 



20 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

sufficiently cultivated among other Chris- 
tian virtues that of tolerance ; perhaps 
because he felt that by giving way to 
invective against others he was render- 
ing his own ground more secure. Be 
it as it might, he railed smartly against 
what he deemed his brother's heathenism, 
and suffered cruelly, in that his words sel- 
dom called forth more than a smile from 
either George or Mr SIvewright, who were 
nearly allied in their contempt for, rather 
than their dread of, Matthew's and Mr 
Lently's school. 

The dinner, with its many courses, dawdled 
on, interspersed with such fragmentary con- 
versation as the presence of the servants per- 
mitted, during which let us finish our portrait- 
painting with sketches of father and son. 

Mr Desborough was a little fussy good- 
tempered garrulous man, his small talk being 
amusing, because generally on artistic sub- 
jects, and rendering him more or less a 



Table Talk, 21 



favourite with every one excepting his wife, 
who did not deny the fact that the squire's 
tongue, Hke the dripping of perpetual water, 
became monotonous, and bored her. He 
was a thorough little gentleman — we might 
almost say courtier — and it would have galled 
Mrs Desborough not a little had she known 
that many of the invitations they received 
were more for the pleasure of enjoying his 
cheery society than for the sake of her prosy 
detailed stories. 

George, their eldest son, scarcely resembled 
either of his parents, except that he was 
thoroughly well-bred — a birthright of which 
a very free indulgence in the fashionable 
slang and fast manners of the day had not 
succeeded in depriving him. He was tall, 
good-looking, with a genial happy face ; 
owing to an amount of inborn philosophy 
the troubles and disappointments of life 
affected him but little. 

' If you can't get the thing you want 



Sackcloth and Bi^oadcloth. 



the most, take the next best and be happy,' 
was the motto of George Desborough's life ; 
and he was one of the very few who 
succeed In leading a don't-care existence 
gracefully. 

Dinner has come to an end, and still 
Matthew is an absentee. Mrs Desborough 
is a little anxious ; a violent storm that 
had raeed in the afternoon makes her fear 
she knows not what. A footstep Is heard 
crossing the hall ; the important-looking 
butler comes once more into the room. 

' Mr Matthew ? ' she asks, showing her 
family for the first time where her thoughts 
have been straying during dinner. 

No ; the servants' entrance has naught to 
do with Matthew. It is a note from the 
Duchess of Montarlis, conveying an invitation 
to Montarlis Castle for the following week. 
A curious little fluster manifests itself in the 
manner of the mistress of Vantage Park, 
during which Matthew is entirely forgotten 



Table Talk. 23 



and Mr Lently's lecture on the vanities of 
life are conspicuously absent from the lady's 
mind. 

In the weakness of her human nature Mrs 
Desborough — established though her own 
position is — is not, with all her cleverness 
and sense of self-superiority, above having 
her vanity tickled and her pulse quickened 
each time she is brought into intimate 
relations with the very great lady of the 
county — her dear friend, the Duchess of 
Montarlis. 

' A dinner or what ? ' inquires George. 
' I hate a ragamuffin fete when the duke 
asks all the voting lot.' 

' You are not invited, George ; but then of 
course the dear duchess does not know you 
have returned. It is a dinner this time — on 
the 24th. The invitation is only for your 
father and me. Shall I accept, Richard ? ' 

' Yes, dear, if you like, of course. We 
have no other engagement I presume. I 



24 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

wonder who will be there ? Not the Lancelot 
Cairns I hope. I took that mummy-headed 
woman into dinner the last time, and she is 
a bore. Oh ! Sivewrlght ; he is sure to be 
asked. We can offer to drive Sivewright 
over if he is going.' 

* The duchess never gives a party without 
Mr Sivewright ; of that you may be very 
sure.' And there was a strong emphasis on 
the never. George set up a shout of laughter, 
at which he received a look from his mother, 
which spoke a volume of rebuke, but he paid 
no attention, only went on laughing, and 
asked ironically, — 

' Do you think exalted rank makes people 
stricter, mother mine ? ' 

* I don't know what you mean, George 
The dear duchess has very religious ten- 
dencies, and the duke is quite evangelical.* 

' So I should suppose. He would not 
stand Lently at any price.' 

* No ; although they are not in his parish, 



Table Talk. 25 



I think Mr Sivewrlght directs the family 
consciences. The duchess — ' 

' Now, mother, be accurate ; you are 
generally so scrupulous in matters of detail.' 

* Well, they do say,' and Mrs Desborough 
prepared for a story in true narrative form, 
while George heaped his plate with fruit, 
for though he quite believed his mother 
would discover a good point at last, he im- 
agined she would be tolerably prolix before 
she got there. * You have not heard, my 
dear George,' she went on, ' how should 
you, since you have been away — the little 
tale about Mr Sivewright and the duchess ? 
I believe it is quite true, though Mr Sive- 
wright only laughs whenever I vaguely allude 
to it. It seems then that the duchess (it was 
before Mr Lently came) was beset by reli- 
gious scruples. She had spent some months 
in Italy — what happened there who shall 
say ? but her head had been filled with 
ideas about auricular confession, at which 



26 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

the duke was quite aghast. Well, one morn- 
ing, soon after her return home, she drove 
over In her pony carriage to Fernwood 
Vicarage, and asked for a private interview 
with the vicar.' 

For a second or two George held a 
plum hesitatingly between his mouth and 
his plate, and then put it down before 
him and gave his undivided attention to 
the riper fruit his mother offered him. 

* What passed has not been exactly di- 
vulged,' went on Mrs Desborough. ' Only 
a few days afterwards the duke sent for Mr 
Sivewright in order to speak with him 
anent something important. On his arrival 
at Montarlis Castle he found the duke — 
you know he can look very fierce when he 
likes — perfectly livid with anger. But who 
so great an adept at pouring balm on open 
wounds as our facile vicar ? He succeeded 
not only in pacifying, but in reassuring the 
duke.' 



Table Talk. 27 



' Well, go on. You are not going to leave 
a fellow there. What happened ? ' 

' The duke's evangelical bristles were up ; 
in fact he did not altogether understand the 
sort of creed Mr Sivewright professed. From 
hearing him preach the Sunday before, he 
came to the somewhat rash conclusion that 
the divine's unction had entrain, that he gave 
evidence of a fresh accession of religious life. 
With a confusion of ideas for which you know 
the dear duke is proverbial, he also settled 
it in his mind that Mr Sivewright's sanctity 
must be inseparable from what he calls the 
new-fangled church views which are creeping 
into the country. He therefore summoned 
the vicar in order to make him promise, as a 
man of honour, that nothing should induce 
him to hear the duchess's confession, how- 
ever much pressed.' 

' Sivewright, surpliced, shriving the duchess, 
what a caricature it would make ! Why the 
deuce did she not go to Lently ? But go 



28 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

on, finish the story. What did Sivewright 
say ? ' 

* It was before Mr Lently came. Our 
vicar met his grace's tirade with a smile of 
mingled pity and amusement, and having 
contemplated him with his head on one side 
for full a minute and a half, merely said, in 
that velvety voice of his we all know so well, 
*' My dear duke, I hope to keep my reputation 
of being a respectable member of society, but 
before I shrive yours or any man's wife 
— Heaven forgive me ! — I'll kiss her." ' 

* No !' and George roared with laughing till 
the room rang again, ' No, that is the man In 
a sentence. He merits Immense kv^o^. Kiss 
the duchess ! and he actually said that to 
the duke ? ' 

'Who was so relieved by the discovery 
that they have been firm friends ever since ; 
but Mr Sivewright is very clever you know.' 
And Mrs Desborough gave a little sigh. 

' It is all an invention, Minnie, a horrid 



Table Talk, 29 



country side fabrication. I can't think how 
you can circulate it. George, pass the 
wine. ' 

Still the squire looked amused. He 
scarcely wished it not to be true. 

* I'll ask Sivewright about it the first time 
I am with him alone/ put in George. * Kiss 
the duchess ! Well she is tempting enough. 
Do you think the duke would let me try ? ' 

' My dear George ! you don't imagine for a 
moment that Mr Sivewright really did mean 
to kiss her ; he is far too correct. It is only 
a little playful way he has of strengthening 
his words by a practical allusion ; and Mrs 
Desborough looked the very incarnation of 
prudery, which only, however, called forth 
another fit of tempestuous hilarity from her 
son. 

* The dear credulous mother ! she be- 
lieves in the sanctity of every sinner — 
even in mine, I do think.' 

' I don't know about you, but I feel quite 



30 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



sure about Mr Sivewright,' she said, rising 
and going towards the door. 

George sprang up to open it for her, 
giving her a hearty kiss as she passed him. 

During the temporary amusement Mat- 
thew had been forgotten, but he put himself 
in evidence at that moment by appearing 
suddenly at the other end of the hall. * Why, 
George, when did you come ? ' he called out 
as he saw his brother. 

'And you, you truant, where have you 
been ? ' 

Yes, where had Matthew been ? There 
was a flush on his cheeks and a light in his 
eyes, which even Mrs Desborough failed to 
read, anxiously and inquiringly though she 
looked at him. 




CHAPTER III, 



LOVES YOUNG DREAM. 




T is an oppressively warm, almost 
sultry afternoon. Storm clouds 
veil the sun, and all nature seems 
lazy, inert, and at rest. The very insects 
have ceased their buzzing and their gambols, 
the birds their twittering and their flight. 
Shelter from the coming rain is the in- 
stinctive craving of all living creation, ex- 
cepting evidently the human, for a girl is 
wandering slowly through a little copse 
which ' skirts the road, as fringe upon a 
petticoat.' She seems totally regardless of 
the large rain drops which are already 
pattering among the leaves above her head. 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



Perhaps she deHghts in storm and wind 
and wet ; yet she is scarcely a girl of a 
daring type — there is neither fire nor deter- 
mination in her countenance ; she is simply 
a modest-looking Saxon maiden on whom 
the good fairy who presided at her birth 
had bestowed prettiness, rather than power 
for a gift. Pink and white and flaxen 
sweet-faced Claire Bailey has not a few 
admirers among the male youth of the 
county ; yet she is very retiring and 
modest, scarcely seems to recognise the 
fact that she is thought pretty, and never 
gives pert answers as do some of her 
intimate friends and playmates. 

It is evident that Claire is returning 
from some errand of mercy, for she is 
carrying a tin can and a basket, both of 
which have once been filled with this world's 
good things. But it is scarcely probable 
that Claire's poor neighbours have provided 
the thoughts on which she is dwelling so 



Loves Young Dreaiu. 33 

profoundly, that she does not heed the rain 
clouds threatening overhead, nor the electric 
fluid charging, almost to suffocation, the 
autumnal breeze. All living beings, however, 
are not so inactive as Claire and the insects 
and the birds, for a horse and rider come 
clattering along the road as though deter- 
mined, by their example, to wake all nature 
into life. To a degree they succeed, for 
Claire returns suddenly from dreamland, and 
looks across the underwood dividing the path 
along which she is idling from the high road. 

The rider stops so unexpectedly as to 
bring his horse almost down on his haunches. 
A deep blush suffuses the young girl's white 
brow, a blush which has not even cleared 
off when the man leaps off his horse, quiets 
the half- frightened animal, and scrambles 
with the bridle on his arm across the 
bushes to her side. 

* Why, Claire, what are you doing out 
in this weather ? It is raining hard.' 

VOL. I. c 



34 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

'Is it?' And either from shyness or 
some other cause, she seems afraid to an- 
swer him ; yet he is not such a terrible in- 
dividual. Most women would have thought 
him a handsome young fellow. He is 
just five-and-twenty, tall and well made, 
almost an athlete in proportion, with curl- 
ing brown hair and large expressive eyes. 
The sort of man of whom boarding-school 
misses would say, 'Is he not sweet ? ' 
And yet Claire — poor timid little Claire — 
seems afraid of him. She does find just 
a little voice though, to whisper fluster- 
ingly,— 

' If it is raining should you not go home, 
or come up to the house ? Mamma will be 
glad to see you.* 

* Since when have you been so careful of 
my health, Miss Claire ? ' 

The colour was deeper than ever now, 
the voice more inaudible. 

' Have you not been very ill ? ' 



Lcves Young D7'ea7n. 35 

* Oh, yes ; but I have been quite well for 
weeks. I should have been to call on you 
— I mean on Lady Laura — before, only — ' 

The girl looked a query. 

* I thought I was not wanted.' 

There was a short silence, for she did not 
contradict him, during which Matthew Des- 
borough gazed at the young lady with his 
curly head just a little on one side, and won- 
dered. They were very old friends these two, 
friends from early childhood, when Matthew, 
who was a few years Claire's senior, used to 
play the part of patronising elder brother. 

To her he was 
Even as a brother — but no more ; 'twas much, 
For brotherless she was, save in the name 
Her infant friendship had bestowed upon him. 

While he, as years passed on, and boy- 
hood erew to manhood, learnt his first 
love lesson as he one day saw Claires 
dainty feet tripping from boulder to boulder 



36 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

across a stream. Matthew was an impetu- 
ous youth, and like wild-fire the new feeling 
increased till its demonstrative character 
frightened the timid Claire, and she said 
she would have no more of Matthew Des- 
borough for a friend — still less for a lover, 
for he terrified and bewildered her. Twice 
had he pleaded his suit in urgent passion- 
ate words ; each time she had fled from 
him like a scared lapwing to the parent 
nest, and he had been compelled either 
* to eat his heart ' in solitude, or rush incon- 
sequently into other pursuits, loving more 
desperately, because thwarted in his love, 
vainly seeking to forget. 

The rain began to pour in torrents. 
What was to be done ? All chance of get- 
ting to the house without being wet through 
was quite hopeless. An overhanging elm 
a few yards off was the only shelter the 
situation afforded. The man bade his fair 
acquaintance run there at once, and began 



Loves Young Di^eaTu. 



to coax his horse through the bracken, a 
proceeding which the animal did not regard 
very kindly. 

At last, however, horse and man are once 
more standing beside Claire, who evidently 
dislikes the present position of affairs quite 
as much as does her equine companion. 

* Had I not better go home ? What will 
mamma think ? ' she asks nervously. 

* That you are safe in Goody Morris's 
cottage, where, I suppose, you have been. 
At any rate it is quite impossible for you to 
walk across the open park in such a down- 
pour as this. I shall not think of allow- 
ing it' 

She looked up at him and smiled — pro- 
bably the magisterial tone of the last part 
of the speech amused her. The most un- 
queenlike, the least pretentious of women 
will fain assume little airs of sovereignty 
when she finds herself reigning with despotic 
sway over an adoring lord of creation ; but 



3 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



she caught an expression in his eye which 
made her instantly look down again and 
blush as she had done once before. Matthew 
Desborough, who, It was evident, had learned 
to serve two masters, since he was not only 
a disciple of Lently, but also a votary of 
Cupid, took her hand — somewhat of a daring 
measure, all circumstances being considered ; 
she did not attempt to withdraw it, however, 
but stood looking very frightened and flushed. 

' Can it be possible, Claire, that I am so 
wholly indifferent to you as you would have 
me to believe ? ' 

' I don't know,' she said almost inaudibly. 

It was a silly answer, but it served to raise 
by many degrees the thermometer of Matthew 
Desborough's spirits, for he looked radiant, 
and the large eyes beamed with delight. 
This disciple of Lently's then could think of 
earthly love, or was it from the supposed 
absence of human affection that he had 
become a disciple of Lently ? Who shall 



Loves Voting Dream. 39 

say ? It is a question involving many subtle 
workings of the mental machinery. His next 
remark, at all events, was mundane enough, 
for he asked, quoting Benedict, cheerily, — 

' And pray, then, now tell me for which of 
my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with 
me?' 

The lady, however, lacked Beatrice's spirit, 
for she answered very simply, — 

' When I heard you were ill I was so afraid 
you would die.' 

' Claire ! ' and his arm encircled her waist 
before she had time to stop it, even if she 
would. 

'Is it true, then, you do really love me 
just a little ? ' 

Claire's timid lips refused to utter any 
more words, but she hid her face on his 
shoulder, and drops fell there that came not 
from the clouds above, though Matthew 
Desborough deemed them heaven-sent. He 
had already descended many degrees from the 



40 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

summit of Lently's goodness-standard. And 
thus it happened that he was a truant from 
the family dinner-table, for thunder showers 
do not clear off quickly, and before there was 
a rainbow in the sky and a bright gleam of 
happy sunshine in Claire's face, the dinner- 
bell must have long since rung at Vantage 
Park. 

The inmates of Swanover Cottage, where 
Claire and her mother. Lady Laura Bailey, 
lived, were not so ambitious in their habits ; 
they dined at two o'clock, contenting them- 
selves in the evening, when alone, with that 
highly indigestible and especially feminine 
meal — a meat tea. 

About seven o'clock, when it was already 
beginning to grow dusk, Matthew was carry- 
ing the can and basket, with the bridle on 
his arm, giving Prig occasionally an encour- 
aging word — though naturally the chief of his 
attention was bestowed on Claire — astonish- 
ing the horse, who was unaccustomed to such 



Loves Voting Drea^n. 41 

vagaries on the part of his master, not a little. 
He was however at last In the open, when a 
fresh eccentricity was in store for Prig. 
Matthew Insisted that Claire should mount 
him, while he led him carefully at walking 
pace ; the long rain-charged grass would wet 
her frivolous boots through in no time, he 
declared. Vainly she assured him they were 
very thick — even clumped. It was useless. 
Matthew, in his new position of accepted 
lover, would have his own way. 

Lady Laura was at the drawing-room 
window ' when they arrived. She opened 
it, and looked at them with a half-comical, 
half-surprised expression on her comely 
face. Left a widow when she was very 
young, she had by no means passed the 
attractive age ; but she was old fashioned 
enough, she explained, to grow prematurely 
old when her husband died, and she had 
since then devoted herself solely to Claire, 
who was her Idol. Perhaps there was no 



Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



dearer wish in Lady Laura's heart than 
that her child should become Matthew 
Desborough's wife. She held his character 
in high esteem, and did not perceive the 
priggishness which George contemned, or 
the volatility of disposition of which Mr 
Sivewright was fully conscious. So she 
received them graciously, but with much 
tact, making no allusion to the change she 
instinctively felt had taken place In their 
mutual relations. 

* Come in both of you, at once. Are you 
very wet ? ' she asked eagerly. * I have 
had some fire lighted, as I thought my 
Claire would be cold. So good of you to 
put her on your horse, Matthew. Ben will 
take him round to the stables. Come In 
and tell me all your adventures. 

And thus, without more words, they both 
went together Into Lady Laura's pretty 
drawing-room, where Claire was petted with 
a mother's tenderest care, and Matthew 



Loves Yoinig Dream. 43 

was not reminded that it was six months 
since he had crossed the threshold of Swan- 
over Cottage. They gave an account of 
how they had accidentally met as the rain 
was beeinnine, thouofh it was but a bald 
and halting tale at which the mother smiled. 
Perhaps her imagination filled with bright 
colouring the seeming weak places. 

' Run away and take your hat off, Claire, 
love, and then we will go into the dining- 
room and see if we can't refresh this hungry 
man.' 

Claire wanted no second bidding. How 
glad she was of five minutes' solitude, during 
which she vainly strove to arrange into 
some order the tumultuous feelings circling 
round her heart. She had scarcely closed 
the door when Matthew rushed up to Lady 
Laura, and taking both her hands said 
excitedly, — 

'You will give me Claire, dear Lady 
Laura — say you will. She has consented to 



44 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

love me, and I shall take such care of her. 
I shall have some money eventually, my 
mother's fortune, you know ; but, of course, 
we sha'n't be married till I have taken 
orders and — ' 

* Stop, my dear Matthew, not so fast — 
you take my breath away. She has con- 
sented to love you, you say ? That is an 
odd phrase. What does it mean ? I must, 
cross-question my little Claire. I thought 
it was arranged she did not care for 
you.' 

* Oh, that was long ago, before she un- 
derstood her own feelings.' 

* And you have been trying to instruct 
her in them. So, so, I must go farther 
into this matter and have a talk with 
Claire.' 

' But if Claire wishes it you will consent, 
will you not, dear Lady Laura ? ' 

' Well, between you, I suppose I shall be 
compelled. We poor chicken - pecked 



Loves Young Dreain. 45 

mammas have no alternative but to obey. 
But I don't feel so sure about Claire/ 

' Oh, that is all right. I am not afraid of 
her now if you don't object.' 

' A thunder-shower seems indeed to have 
cleared the air,' said Lady Laura laughing, 
as at this moment Claire, looking very 
bright and happy, popped her head in at 
the door. 

' Tea is quite ready, mamma,' but she 
was gone again before either her mother 
or Matthew had time to stop her. 

The presence of the servant in the dining- 
room was the safeguard she sought to shelter 
her from the otherwise inevitable explana- 
tion. Before the homely repast was over 
it had proved itself unnecessary to the 
mother's heart. 

Claire's eyes had told their own tale. 

Some half-hour later Matthew was sud- 
denly overcome by the recollection that his 
family would be anxious at his unusual ab- 



46 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

sence. Prig was brought round from the 
stables, and both the ladies went out to see 
him mount. 

' I think you may reckon on me for a 
coadjutrix,' said Lady Laura in a low voice, 
as she shook hands with him, while Claire 
fondled the horse, kissing his brown velvet 
nose with a sort of approximate affection, 
* for once in your life I do believe you have 
read the signs aright.' 

When George learns what eventful episode 
made his brother late for dinner, it will pro- 
bably afford him even more merriment than 
the account of Mr Sivewright's passage-at- 
arms with the duke. 




CHAPTER IV. 



MONTARLIS CASTLE. 




E is a duke ; but he might be a 
cobbler/ is a stricture not in- 
frequently passed on William, 
seventh Duke of Montarlis, Marquis of 
Suthorne, Earl of Brently, and Baron Gold- 
ford as says Burke. Sitting at the bottom 
of his own table, he certainly presents no 
very imposing appearance. 

' Cunning and common,' were well chosen 
epithets were he an ordinary man ; but he 
is a duke, so they are magnified into ' dis- 
tinguished and discerning.' 

The duke was not a young man ; he was 
considerably over sixty before he inherited the 



48 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

family title, having been up to that time plain 
Mr Scivener, the offshoot of a very remote 
branch of the ducal house of Montarlis. 

To a degree he was sensible of his own 
shortcomings, both in appearance and in 
the capability, for all at once assuming the 
position of one of England's greatest nobles. 
He had therefore judged it expedient to 
bestow his hand and dukedom on a lady 
who, herself but the daughter of a rich com- 
moner, yet was well qualified in every re- 
spect to fill a duchess's place, wearing his 
honours with little sovereign airs, and dis" 
pensing her hospitalities with a knowledge 
of amalgamation and combination of which 
the duke was totally ignorant. 

She was a white- skinned, fleshy woman, 
about thirty. She had been married a little 
over three years, and fashionable gossips 
said she had decidedly been fast herself 
before her marriage, though no one could 
exactly attribute any particular scandal to 



Montarlis Castle. 49 

her name, probably from the fact that she 
had very quiet manners, and a ' don't under- 
stand ' look in her large eyes. Be it as it 
might, since she had become Duchess of 
Montarlis, she had followed a discreet path. 
Perhaps she was just a little afraid of stum- 
blinof back into old habits, and had therefore 
selected the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright as 
confidant and counsellor — a strong rock on 
which to lean without the fear of brittle 
pieces breaking off at those inconvenient 
moments when she most wanted support. 
Especially since she had returned from Italy, 
now more than a year ago, had the duchess 
clung to Mr Sivewright, much to the secret 
dissatisfaction of Mrs Desborough, who could 
have forgiven everything in the 'dear duchess,' 
save this attempt to monopolise the vicar. 

While the duchess had been abroad she 
had made or rather renewed acquaintance 
with a Mrs Tremayne, who had since then 
been a tolerably constant visitor at Mont- 

VOL. I. D 



5C Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

arlis Castle. She was a widow, a year or 
two younger than the duchess, in the full 
zenith of attractiveness and intrigue. A 
brunette, with laughing eyes and bright 
warm colouring — this fashionable, dashing 
siren kept the house-party alive with her 
laughter and her jokes, while the neighbours 
muttered little ' Ohs ! ' and ' Ahs ! ' in sup- 
pressed tones — * she was scarcely the woman 
they would have imagined the duchess would 
have selected for her familiar friend.' It had 
been explained by the word ' playmate,' still 
an uncomfortable feeling hung about the 
intimacy, as though the duchess were not 
altogether a free agent in the matter. 

Mr Sivewright and the lady in question 
constantly had little spars, owing possibly to 
some degree of jealousy with which each 
one regarded the other's influence in high 
quarters. To Mrs Desborough, who by 
some fortuitous circumstances had not yet 
met Mrs Tremayne, the occasional accounts 



Montarlis Castle. 51 

she received of these battles were indeed 
treats, and she was fully prepared to worship 
at the Tremayne shrine when they should be 
introduced at the ducal dinner party. 

Scarcely, however, did she expect such a 
bewildering little woman as the gay young 
widow proved, with her dazzling complexion, 
her brilliant eyes, her pearly teeth, and her 
toilette. The Maison Roger might well be 
proud of such a master- work of diaphanous 
pink — yet she sued in forma pauperis , asking 
always for indulgence in her vain efforts to 
vie with ducal riches. 

* It is so dreadful to have rich friends. I 
am at my wits' end ; and quite at my purses' 
end too for the matter of that,' she had con- 
fided to Mrs Desborough when, the long 
dinner being over, they were sitting having 
a little woman's talk before the advent of the 
gentlemen. 

' I am always telling dear Julia she should 
let me go back to my doll's house, for I have 



LIBRARY 



It T »«mfC 



5 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

a doll's house of my own. Oh ! it is tiny. 
However, if Julia wants me, of course I must 
remain for the sake of auld lang syne. 
Heigho!' 

And fringed lashes veiled her dazzling 
eyes, but for all that she failed to look sub- 
dued or sentimental. For a second or two 
Mrs Desborough had time to wonder what it 
all meant. Then Mrs Tremayne looked up 
once more, and the flush came back. 

* Isn't Julia handsome ? And doesn't she 
look every inch a duchess. I always said 
she was born for an exalted position instead 
of—' 

Mrs Desborough looked a query. 

* A miserable, petty lot like mine,' went 
on the chatterbox, whose first idea had 
obviously been a different one. 

' I admire the duchess immensely,' Mrs 
Desborough began. ' There is something 
so very distinguished in her bearing, and 
she is so very — ' 



Montarlis Castle, 53 

* Chic, cachet, and all that sort of thing 
— yes,' and Mrs Tremayne laughed rip- 
pingly ; ' particularly when you compare 
her with her surroundings. This room is 
a perfect museum of oddities. Do tell me 
who some of them are.' 

' The lady in black with the dried-up face 
is Mrs Lancelot Cairns ; the girl in brown 
is her daughter. They are very worthy 
people — do an immense amount of good.' 

* Do they ? What a pity they ever leave 
off. I am sure they are doing no good 
here. And the bright green woman by 
the piano ? I hope she is not going to 
sing.' 

* She is a Miss Chiffonal. Her father 
sat by you at dinner.' 

' Just so. He drew me ; was it not bad 
luck ? Do you like the practice here of 
drawing lots for your dinner partner ? It 
is rather fun standing at the door with the 
hat. I feel as if I was making a quete in 



54 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

a church — in fact, it is the only time that 
I ever feel really good.' 

' I think I like the old plan of precedence 
best,' observed Mrs Desborough. ' This 
one must inevitably lead to a good deal of 
ill-feeling.' 

' Squabbles without end. I'll tell you 
such an amusing one. Mr Sivewright was 
the hero. You know Mr Sivewright, of 
course ? ' 

Mrs Desborough's soft laces fluttered. 

' Our very dear vicar. Certainly I know 
Mr Sivewright' 

*Ah! Naturally you and he would sym- 
pathise ; but he does not approve of me. 
I shock him. I have had an odd education, 
Mrs Desborough, or rather none at all. I 
was dragged up in a sort of fashion.' 

' Were you brought up in France ? ' 

* Well, yes, partly,' and Mrs Tremayne 
laughed. ' But never mind that. A few 
nights ago when your vicar was dining 



Montarlis Castle, 55 

here he drew me. I saw it as plainly as 
if Violet Tremayne had been written on 
his brow. Of course, he thought that luck 
would be sure to favour a parson in the 
game of speculation, and that he would 
draw the duchess.' 

This time Mrs Desborough's lace grew 
ruffled, and little points seemed to show 
themselves. 

* Well, our mutual friend walked away 
without uttering a word, and left me to 
finish my partner-lottery. The last straggler, 
a man they call Adonis Valmont, came in 
just before the dinner was announced. I 
presented him with the last ticket and put 
down the hat. Too much engaged in twist- 
ing his moustache to look at his paper, he 
sauntered on to the hearthrug when I saw — 
actually saw — him change it with Mr Sive- 
wright for coin — half-a-crown, I believe. It 
was the duchess — that I also saw on Mr 
Sivewright's face.' 



56 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' *' Bribery and corruption," I said, walk- 
ing up to him, " are not permitted. I am 
the genius of the hat." ' 

* " And I have the honour of taking you 
into dinner," said Adonis Valmont.' 

' '* No, Mr Valmont, I decline ; you are 
to take the duchess. Give back that half- 
crown ; we are not going to be bought and 
sold like merchandise. Come, Mr Sive- 
wright, I'll answer for it — you shall be 
punished here if you think you won't be 
there," pointing downwards of course.' 

Mrs Desborough laughed and looked very 
beaming, though of course she protested. 

* Mr Sivewright could not do such a 
thing,' she said. 

' He'll do anything not to be bored,' 
answered the other ; ' and there is no mis- 
take about the fact he was bored that night. 
I would not even argue with him ; I never 
spoke, and he had got a deaf mummy on 
the other side. I hope he liked it, anyhow 



Montarlis Castle. 57 

he will not throw me over again, and the 
next time he draws me I shall decline to 
go with him, if I go to bed without my 
dinner.' 

* So it is war to the knife between you 
and the vicar. I did not know he was of 
so belligerent a turn. Do you really dislike 
him ? ' 

' I ? No. He is a sort of clerical ano- 
maly that amuses me ; but I never put up 
with slights from men — but here come the 
gentlemen. I'll go and sing them in before 
Miss Chiffonal gets possession of the in- 
strument.' 

And in a second or two the atmosphere 
of the room seemed filled with ripples from 
Violet Tremayne's liquid voice. 

Mr Sivewright dropped into the vacant 
place by Mrs Desborough. 

' How beautifully she sings ; how charm- 
ing she is,' said the lady. She felt she 
could afford to praise. 



58 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Yes, but she is too overpowering — a rest- 
less, excitable woman. She has no repose. 
She does not understand the present moment ; 
enjoyment with her consists in anticipating 
what is going to happen in an hour. I 
don't think I ever met any one who tried 
all my senses like Mrs Tremayne.' 

* Who was she ? ' 

Mr Sivewright shrugged his shoulders. 
' She is not in Burke, I fancy. She and 
the duchess knew each other as girls ; it 
is almost a pity they met again.' 

* They are of very different natures, hence 
the sympathy, I presume,' said Mrs Des- 
borough in a little prim way she had at 
times. 

' Perhaps ; the duchess decidedly gains by 
the contrast. Oh ! how infinitely I prefer 
quiet reposeful women. There is something 
so much more sympathetic about them. Look 
at the duchess as she moves now from one 
to another of her guests. Queen-like, swan- 



Montarlis Castle. 59 

like, undulating — that is the perfection of 
feminine grace ; and that clinging white 
satin — see how it sets off the contour of 
her figure.' 

' Are you joking, Mr Sivewright ? ' asked 
Mrs Desborough, to whom these rhapsodies 
on another woman's charms were most un- 
pleaslng. It was the first time too, the 
vicar had ever talked to her In this strain ; 
but on this occasion he had sat very near 
the duchess at dinner, and the duke's cham- 
pagne was of the best. Nor did Mrs Des- 
borough's frowns deter him from persisting 
in the assertion that 'her grace of Mon- 
tarlis was a magnificent woman — a mon- 
strous fine woman.' 

Yes, she had chosen wisely when she had 
selected the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright for 
an ally, and Mrs Desborough was begin- 
ning to fear that her longer friendship with 
the vicar was crumbling away from its very 
antiquity — for that probably her twenty 



6o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

years of priority in age were beginning to 
tell. Mrs Desborough had, however, learned 
the discretion of silence ; only by the sharp 
quick movement of her face were her feel- 
inors visible. After a second she recovered 
herself completely, and smiled benignly 
on the vicar. During that second she had 
resolved to hold her ground, and perhaps 
she thought a tilt with a duchess were no 
mean warfare. 

* In matters of taste you are infallible,' she 
said blandly. ' No one can gainsay that 
the duchess is beautiful — to-night looking 
more than usually so — and that she has 
wonderfully good style ; but still, for all that, 
I am vastly taken with Mrs Tremayne's 
laughing face and laughing manners. She 
is like a beam of sunshine on a winter's 
day.' 

Thus it was clearly manifest that Mrs 
Desborough had the intention to cultivate 
the acquaintance of Violet Tremayne, and 



Alontarlis Castle. 6i 

through her means to strengthen the intimacy 
between MontarHs Castle and Vantage Park. 

Always be on the most sociable and 
loving terms with people of whom you have 
sufficient fear to be jealous. 

Mrs Desborough had lived long enough 
in the world, and studied its ways sufficiently 
close, to be thoroughly cognisant of this 
fact. Her patience with Mr Sivewright in 
his present mood, however, was nearly ex- 
hausted — though she did not wish to show 
it — so she got up and walked towards the 
piano, meeting her hostess half way across 
the room. 

* Dear duchess, that charming friend of 
yours is too delightful ; and how she sings ! ' 

' Yes. Violet is a good little thing, and 
is always ready to please and be useful.' 

But the duchess's brow clouded as though 
praise bestowed, even by a woman, on Violet 
Tremayne were scarcely pleasing to her. 

'Will you drive over to luncheon, and 



62 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

bring her with you some day soon ? ' went 
on Mrs Desborough. ' You have not been 
to see me for so long/ 

'Yes, with pleasure, it will be something 
new for Violet ; she is always craving for 
new excitements.' 

* George has come home/ said Mrs Des- 
borough. ' And the dear boy has no end 
of funny stories — some of them very amus- 
ing.* 

* Indeed ! George is a great favourite of 
mine. He is so fresh and racy. I am sorry 
I did not know. I should have asked him 
to come to-night. Shall we say Tuesday 
for luncheon ? Tell your son I shall count 
on his being at home.* 

Mrs Desborough was radiant. She could 
not guess the thought that lay beneath 
that serene voice ; it had its existence 
nevertheless. 

' If only George Desborough would marry 
Violet Tremayne.* 



CHAPTER V. 



THE CHURCH OR THE HOME. 



KALTE la! impetuous youth/ 

oj ^^ ^ And Matthew, who was walk- 
^ ing with rapid strides down the 
carriage drive at Vantage Park, found him- 
self suddenly arrested by the appearance of 
an umbrella in front of him. 

' Ah ! Mr Sivewright, I was going to 
call on you.' 

' Indeed ! ' and the vicar's eyebrows arched. 
It was not often Matthew turned his steps 
towards Fernwood Vicarage. 

* Yes ; I did not wish you to hear of my en- 
gagement to Miss Bailey from any one else.' 

' Your engagement to Miss Bailey ? Mrs 



64 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Desborough did not tell me,' and the vicar 
looked as surprised as a man of his calibre 
could permit himself to look. 

' No, no ; my mother does not approve. 
Besides, I begged her to be silent for the 
present. But you do not congratulate me.' 

' My dear Matthew, to see you comfort- 
ably ensconced as paterfamilias in some 
snug country parsonage were indeed a 
matter for congratulation could I believe it 
possible ; but I thought you were vowed 
to celibacy and all that sort of thing.' 

' Not at all — not at all. If such were my 
views I might as well go to Rome at once.' 

' Oh ! I don't pretend to have a lens 
sufficiently clear to detect the miscroscopic 
line which defines the boundaries of the 
two faiths. In my private opinion it is 
non-existent — a mere optical delusion.' 

* One must be allowed to exercise a little 
private judgment, pleaded Matthew, ' where- 
as in Rome — ' 



The CIm7^ch or the Home. 65 

* Pooh ! nonsense, my dear young friend. 
There is no middle way — faith or reason. 
As soon as you begin to exercise the latter 
the first disappears. You are only cheating 
yourself by trying to take the kernels out 
of both nuts. A married father-confessor 
is an anomaly, though, if you follow my 
advice, you'll stick to matrimony, and give 
up all this new-fangled nonsense.' 

* You foro^et that Claire entertains the same 
views.' 

' Oh ! yes, silly children both of you. You'll 
grow wiser as you grow older. Your mother 
does not approve of the marriage, you say, 
and wherefore ?' 

' She thinks we are both too young, and, 
moreover, upon my word I hardly like to tell 
you, but, in short, she hints that it is the 
result of some manoeuvre on the part of Lady 
Laura.' 

' While it is entirely a matter of spontaneous 
combustion, eh ? Well, I must have a few 

VOL. I. E 



66 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

words with Mrs Desborough on the sub- 
ject.' 

* You will — you will tell her that you think 
it highly, intensely advantageous for us both ; 
that it would be cruel and unkind to do any- 
thing to prevent it.' 

' Stop, stop ! I am not going to pledge my- 
self to any wild extravagancies. It is more 
probable that you will have to bring a little 
more common sense to bear on the acts of 
your daily life. Fewer visions and more real 
practical working will be expected from a 
man who has saddled himself with the onus 
of matrimony.' 

' Not even for Claire can I deny my faith,' 
said Matthew fervently. 

' Your faith ! Well, well, well, we shall see 
which is stronger, love or fear.' 

And Mr Sivewright leant gracefully against 
a rustic seat which chanced to be close by. 

* Fear, Mr Sivewright, fear ! What do you 
mean } ' 



TliC CJmrcn oj^ the Home. 67 



* It is excessive selfishness that makes all 
you fellows so perverse and argumenta- 
tive. If you were not afraid of eternal 
punishment you would talk in a very different 
strain.' 

' And are not you afraid of eternal punish- 
ment, Mr Sivewright ? ' and Matthew looked 
horrified and aghast. 

' I ? I hope I have too unbounded a belief 
in the power and goodness and wonderful 
benevolence of Heaven.' 

' Perhaps you don't think we shall be 
punished at all ? ' 

Mr Sivewright shrugged his shoulders. 

* Let each follow his own conscience, and 
trim, to the best of his power, the lamp which 
illumes it, and don't let us trouble our heads 
about an unknown future, which is more in- 
explorable than even the Arctic regions to 
which, by the way, do you observe a new 
Government expedition is about to start ? ' 

' More energy is displayed in connection 



6 8 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 

with the things of this Hfe than about the 
great matters of eternity ! ' exclaimed Mat- 
thew fiercely. He was very irate at what 
he considered Mr SIvewright's levity. 

' And yet the great Creator gave us to 
enjoy, or why this beautiful earth, these riches 
of nature and art by which we are surrounded ? 
Your creed seems to me so suppressive of 
all natural enjoyment, that if for no other 
reason I should condemn it. It is no use 
to set our religious standard too high, my 
young friend ; we are but human, and are 
apt to get dizzy on a height. You are at this 
moment in danger of toppling over ; Claire 
versus Creed — something of a desperate con- 
flict I expect. Of course you will follow Mr 
Lently's advice, so I will withhold any farther 
counsel for the present, and go and pay my 
respects to Mrs Desborough.* 

And they parted, the vicar muttering to 
himself — 

' Wise woman, Mrs Desborough ; but who 



The Church or the Hoine. 69 

so wise as a woman in diplomacy ? She 
thwarts this boy because, forsooth, she 
wishes him to marry. I have taken the 
cue, I think, and Lently will find a restive 
pupil when next he and Master Matthew 
regale themselves with a little disputation.' 

The vicar was right. He had sown the 
seeds of discord in Matthew's mind, for he 
too went mutterinor down the avenue, — 

' Why should I not marry ? Who has any 
right to stop me ? Am I not a free agent ? 
Lently — Sivewright — what bosh ! I shall do 
as I please. I shall see Lently at once and 
tell him what I think. He is married. 
Bother Sivewright ! he is always so con- 
sumedly satirical.' 

So, instead of the ceremonious visit which 
Matthew felt himself in duty bound to pay to 
the old family friend, when he got outside 
the park gates he vaulted a stile, crossed 
some fields with hasty steps, walked a good 
half-mile down a rutty green lane, then over 



JO Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

some more fields, till the spire of a pretty 
village church was visible, and close to the 
church a gabled parsonage-house, snugly- 
built among elm trees. 

Ravensholme Vicarage was less preten- 
tious than its sister of Fernwood, but it was 
homely and comfortable-looking, if only its 
internal arrangements had not contradicted 
external signs. 

As Matthew approached, screams from 
young voices met his ears — not the happy 
joyous yells of exulting childhood, but the 
discordant, hideous outcry of spoiled, un- 
manageable, discontented brats. Matthew 
was a privileged individual ; he had free 
admission at all hours into Ravensholme 
Vicarage, and he used it now, for he walked 
straiofht in at the back-door, and came 
abruptly on the scene of the affray. 

Mrs Lently — for the Rev. Luke, notwith- 
standing his tendencies, was a married 
man — Mrs Lently was standing slipshod, in 



The Chtcrch or the Home. 7 1 

a state of greasy d^shabilld, among her pro- 
geny, who were all squalling round her, 
while she strove vainly to raise her voice in 
angry tones, so as to be heard above the 
general uproar. Neither her own un- 
groomed condition nor the generally unruly 
state of the establishment seemed, however, 
to affect her, for she turned to Matthew 
with a smile on her broad, kindly face, — 

* Quiet them for me, Mr Matthew, will 
you ? You are the only one who can.' 

These words were conveyed more by signs 
than sound, for the youngsters' clamour in- 
creased when they saw Matthew, who very 
frequently indulged them in a game of romps. 

At the present moment, however, his mind 
was too much bent on his own affairs to be 
very indulgent for the little Lentlys' short- 
comings. 

' I'd smack every white head of you if I 
were your mother,' he said sharply. ' Cease 
this din instantly, or I'll never race you round 



72 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

the garden again, or take you up to the park 
to dimb the mulberry tree.' 

Matthew looking angry was an unusual 
sight, and so impressed the children that they 
left off howling to stare at him. 

Master Bobbie, a four-year-old, was the 
first to break the silence. With his thumb 
well in his mouth he heaved a deep sigh, 
while two tears stopped half way down his 
cheeks, as though they too wondered what 
had happened, and when he had looked at 
Matthew for a few seconds, he said senten- 
tiously, — * Bobbie bad boy ! Bobbie must go 
to black place. Bobbie be dood for sweets.' 

Matthew turned from the group of chil- 
dren and looked out of the window. 

' Bribery and fear,' he repeated to himself. 

How unbidden thoughts will force them- 
selves — how involuntary is at times the 
action of the mind ; his recent conversation 
with Mr Sivewright was paramount. 

But the children having speedily recovered 



The Ch2i7'ch or the Home. "ji 

their natural buoyancy, clamoured round him 
for play, and thus disputed the possession of 
him with his thoughts. For a few minutes 
they were successful ; but Matthew's feelings 
had been too deeply stirred for him to lay 
them long on one side at infantine bidding. 

Mrs Lently perhaps noticed a pre-occupied 
look on his brow, for she rang the bell. A 
maid, wearing earrings and dirty ribands, 
answered the summons. 

' Take them all away Susan, every one,' 
said the mistress pettishly. 

This order was the signal for another out- 
break from the youngsters ; but among much 
weeping and kicking and shrieking they 
were at last conveyed, to Matthew's no small 
satisfaction, to the nursery. 

* Mr Lently is out. Do you want to see 
him ? ' asked the lady, as soon as the door 
was closed. 

Out ! of course he was. What man could 
stand such a household ? So instead of his 



74 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

club he took to what he called parochial 
work. Stop a moment though. Reverse 
the picture. May it not be because he is 
always out that his home has become a 
pandemonium ? And when he does come In 
his martyr-like appearance and general con- 
demnation of everything that is pleasant or 
cheery do not contribute largely to the 
gaiety of the establishment. He married 
when he was very young a w^oman some 
years older than himself. They were Ill- 
assorted in every way. He was unpractical, 
visionary, and theoretical ; while she was a 
pretty doll, plastic in mind as the wax from 
which her body seemed to have been moulded. 
Mrs Lently would have followed any path that 
had been shown her clearly and practically ; 
but she was totally incapable of selecting one 
for herself, and failed utterly in reaching her 
husband's high flights. In the early part of 
their married life he had spread his pinions 
and soared above the earth in a good many 



The CJi2i7'cJi or the Home. 75 

different directions, till he had at last flapped 
his wino-s into the Ritualistic course. His 
wife tried to accompany him, but after 
several futile attempts she floundered hope- 
lessly. 

There were the children, the dreadful ser- 
vants, the house-bills, the mendings, the 
cleanings, and, worse than all, there was an 
incompetent head that never could arrange 
the simplest plan or carry out unassisted the 
merest trifle. So Mrs Lently never found 
time to go to her husband's week-day ser- 
vices, but led an untidy tangled life, in which 
nothing was begun at the beginning or finished 
up to the end ; and while the Rev. Luke 
Lently's church decorations and services were 
remarked on as more ambitious and advanced 
than those of any other divine in those parts ; 
while his teaching, in spite of his belief in 
purgatory, left no middle way for imperfec- 
tion, his home afforded a theme for specu- 
lation, and made people remark how fre- 



76 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

quently experiment fails to prove theory. All 
his neighbours admitted readily that Mrs 
Lently was a well-intentioned, simple-minded 
woman, and it was weakness of purpose, not 
vicious inclination, that made her a slattern 
and a peevish whining grumbler. 

For natures such as hers, the Rev. Luke 
Lently's religious code had not provided. 
She never even succeeded in understanding 
the dogmas he was perpetually enumerating ; 
so she contented herself with setting him 
down in her own private calendar as a 
saint, and following the cursory unmethodi- 
cal way of her own very earthly life, nag- 
ging off the roughest bits by means of her 
tongue, as though the sound of her own 
voice were a consolation to her. 

Matthew Desborough and Mrs Lently 
were on very friendly terms. He himself 
was somewhat halting in determination, and 
he had consequently a certain amount of 
fellow-feeling for her shortcomings, not unfre- 



The Chit7'cJi or the Home, 77 

quently doing her a good turn in the way of 
helping her out of some difficulty, about 
which the great Lently would not have 
allowed himself to be troubled. He had not, 
however, sufficient respect for her sagacity 
to make her his confidante on this occa- 
sion, scorching though the words were 
which burnt his tongue impatient to be 
uttered. 

He walked up and down the room ex- 
citedly, every now and then fidgeting with 
the things on the mantel-shelf or table in 
a way that would have made most women 
chide him ; but Mrs Lently was accustomed 
to Matthew's vagaries. She took no notice, 
only chatted on in a maudlin sort of way 
about the petty worries of her every-day 
existence, and gave the usual catalogue 
raisonde of children, servants, breakages, 
butcher's bills, etcetera. She was inter- 
rupted at last by a sudden question from 
Matthew. 



73 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Does Lently ever go to Lady Laura 
Bailey's ? ' 

' Yes, sometimes, I think ; and Miss 
Bailey comes here pretty often, and is so 
nice with the children. She used to come 
here every day when you were ill. It is 
a pity you have quarrelled with the Baileys, 
Mr Matthew.' 

He coloured up, and answered rapidly, — 

* Who said I had quarrelled with them ? 
Why did you not tell me Claire had been 
here ? ' 

' Oh ! because she told me not. I can't 
think how it slipped out now, but I am a 
poor thing at keeping a secret. She is so 
good. Do you remember when the children 
had measles, and then Jane took them too, 
and cook had a bad leg. There was I left 
as usual without a living being to do the 
work, and Luke saying I ought to go to 
church at eight, and again in the afternoon. 
Of course I know I ought, but how could 



The Church or the Ho7ne. 79 

I ? It's only idle people that will get to 
Heaven if church is to take them there — 
that is what I tell Luke ; but of course 
he is a saint ; he can't understand my 
difficulties.' 

' Well, and Claire Bailey ? ' interrupted 
Matthew. 

' Oh ! she came and helped me — actually 
made puddings and gruel for the babies 
with her own hands. Ah ! I wish I was 
like Miss Bailey. The place used to look 
quite different after she had been here an 
hour or so. But I never could be tidy. 
My poor mother used to say — ' 

' And Claire came every day and did 
these things ? Where was I ? ' 

' Oh ! you were ill, and then you went 
abroad. I don't suppose you ever even 
heard of the trouble we were in here. I 
don't know what I should have done with- 
out that angel, for Luke is nothing at — ' 

' And Claire was not afraid of catching 



8o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

the measles ? ' asked Matthew, anxious to 
keep Mrs Lently from wandering. 

* Not she. When is she ever afraid for 
herself when there is good to be done ? I 
had hoped, Mr Matthew, that you and 
she—' 

* Is not that Lently coming along the 
road ? ' 

And Matthew was suddenly desirous to 
change the subject, for he perceived that it 
was growing personal. 

' Yes, that it is ; and, good gracious ! he 
had no breakfast before he went out. He 
said he would have it at twelve. It is now 
half-past, and I've forgotten to tell the cook.' 

And away went Mrs Lently to see what 
sort of an uncomfortable repast could be 
concocted at a minute's notice for her 
hungry husband. 




CHAPTER VI. 

MR LENTLy's cross. 

R LENTLY'S private study is 
small, paper strewn and un- 
orderly, the latter being the 
characteristic disposition of everything at 
Ravensholme Vicarage, both mentally and 
materially. His sanctum has, however, the 
merit of being a quiet nook, as far removed 
as possible from nursery clamour ; while a 
side door opening on to a little path which 
leads directly from the garden to the church 
renders the Rev. Luke an independent agent 
in his exits and entrances. 

Matthew is sitting there now, his legs 
stretched out, his hands clasped together, 

VOL. I. F 



82 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

his brows flushed, his eyes flashing ; in fact 
there are decidedly feverish tendencies ex- 
hibiting themselves, and considering how ill 
he had been a few months back, his mother, 
and probably Claire, would have thought his 
present state a highly dangerous one ; but 
the Rev. Luke Lently has no such scruples, 
as with a stern look on his ascetic brow 
he is, to all appearance, holding the knife 
firmly which is to eradicate what he calls the 
hankering after worldliness in his young 
friend and disciple. He is, however, but 
one of those bungling operators who slash 
without science. Mr Lently is inflicting a 
desperate wound which fails nevertheless to 
touch the supposed disease ; he has reckoned 
too much on his patient's belief in his advice, 
without which belief it is said that no real 
cure is ever effected. Weak natures are not 
necessarily the most plastic by reason of the 
very obstinacy that is in them, and for this 
strongly-developed feature in the neophyte 



Mr Lentlys Cross. 83 

he thought all his own he had not calcu- 
lated. Ah ! the Rev. Lawrence Sivewrlght, 
whatever his shortcomings in matters of 
faith, possessed undoubtedly the larger share 
of acumen ; there were few dispositions, 
whatever their peculiar proclivities, that he 
was incapable of bending if it pleased him 
to make the attempt. A pity the gift were 
not bestowed on a holier man, it had been 
observed, but the laws of compensation are 
very evenly balanced, and the gift was in 
itself a trial — a burden on that conscience 
Mr Sivewright was always striving so man- 
fully to follow — for was there not hidden 
away somewhere in his heart a whispering 
fear lest, in influencing people to his views, he 
was corrupting them to evil ? for that which 
seemed truth to him might scarcely fill the 
void in another soul. But to waive digression. 
Matthew's last remark, whatever it was, 
had roused the usually dormant irascibility 
which was latent in Mr Lently's nature. He 



84 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

had been writing for some time with his 
back turned to his pupil, occasionally writ- 
ing and occasionally enunciating his dogmas 
in a phlegmatic sort of way, which, to say 
the least, was irritating. At this juncture he 
turned suddenly round and faced the younger 
man. 

' Marry, marry if you will, but renounce 
at once all claim to ever becoming a true 
priest. We want no more married clergy to 
choke up the ranks of the Anglican Church.' 

Matthew rose, and stood looking doggedly 
at his opponent. 

' I shall marry, of that I am resolved, and 
I shall take orders too, if it so pleases me 
when the time comes. I was wrong per- 
haps to have consulted you, since your own 
married life seems to have been a mistake.' 

' Every married life is a mistake, when a 
man's first mistress is the Church,' answered 
Mr Lently. 

' I cannot see any difficulty in the com- 



Mr Lentlys Cross. 85 

bination of Church and marriage,' pursued 
Matthew ; ' it works very well in many in- 
stances.' 

' Claire Bailey, forsooth ! Claire Bailey to 
be set up against our holy mother Church ! 
Give her up Matthew, give her up as you 
value your immortal soul.' 

' Pooh, nonsense, Mr Lently, you are mad. 
You of all men to talk like this.' 

' It is because I am what I am that I do 
talk thus. Do you think my life is not one 
endless penance for past foolishness. You 
know better than any man that my home 
is anything but a happy one, that wife and 
children rise in continual rebellion against 
my views and feelings. It is my cross, 
Matthew, the cross I have had to bear — 
shall bear to the end — avoid it, my young 
friend, avoid it. If you have the strength of 
Samson, it will crush you with its weight.' 

Matthew thought of the two pilgrims who 
started on their pilgrimage with peas in 



86 Sackcloth a^id^ Bi^oadcloth. 

their shoes, and how the one who took the 
precaution to boil his peas arrived with 
speedy steps and fresh mien at the goal, 
while the other lagged behind footsore and 
weary ; but he had too much respect for his 
pastor to point the allegory, he merely ob- 
served quietly, his impatience abating as 
that of Mr Lently increased. 

* There are various ways of governing a 
household. Because you and Mrs Lently 
do not understand each other, it does not 
follow that every couple should be equally 
mis-mated.' 

* It is not the case in point, not the case 
in point,' thundered the Rev. Luke ; ' it is 
marriage that is a mistake, not the fact of 
being linked to any particular woman. A 
married priest brings a curse down on his 
house which no prayers nor penances can 
remove.' 

'Yet St Paul writing to Timothy, says 
that '* a bishop should be the husband 



Mr Lentlys Cross. 8 7 

of one wife — having his children in sub- 
jection with all gravity. For if a man 
know not how to rule his own house, 
how shall he take care of the church of 
God?"' 

Mr Lently turned once more to his writing, 
and then after a second or two, as though he 
thought a pause would make his words more 
effective, he said slowly, — 

' For they are virgins. These follow the 
Lamb whithersoever He goeth.' — Rev. xiv. 4. 

Matthew bit his nails. He had joined the 
Ritualistic phalanx in order, as he had hinted 
to Mr Sivewright, to combine ultra faith with 
its equivalent in self-will, and this determined 
opposition to his wishes he felt by no means 
inclined to tolerate. Yet what was to be 
done ? It was unreasonable and preposterous 
to expect him to give up Claire, while to turn 
renegade was equally impossible. No, he 
must bring all the obstinacy which contradic- 
tion had awakened within him to bear on the 



88 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

matter, and follow the promptings of his own 
inclination. 

' You then really consider that marriage, 
under the circumstances in which I am 
placed, would be sin ? ' he asked more for the 
sake of receiving a definite answer from Mr 
Lently, than from any intention of being 
biassed by the same. 

' Unquestionably, and one which you will 
have to expiate by severe penance.' 

* I accept the penance,' said Matthew very 
quietly ; * it were worth countless penances to 
win Claire.' 

Boanerges could be restrained no longer, 
he rose and began to pace the tiny room ex- 
citedly, waving his hands and arms at times 
in violent gesticulation, while he declaimed 
at his disciple as though he were practising 
for platform oratory. 

' Is this the result of all my teaching — one 
more cross that I am called on to bear — to 
see the strong firm earth on which I had 



Mr Leiitlys Cross. 89 

hoped your feet rested crumbling away 
beneath the weight of worldliness ? You 
who I had hoped were called to be a saint, 
if not a martyr, for the good cause, succumb- 
ing so soon to the lust of the flesh. Oh, 
Matthew, return while there is yet time to 
your first love. *' Behold, thou a7't fair, my 
love ; behold, thou art fair ; thou hast dovei 
eyes. Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, and 
comely ; our bed is flou7nshi7ig. The beams of 
our house are of cedar, our rafters of cypress 
trees!' Ah, is she not fair, fairer than the love 
of woman, our dear and holy mother Church, 
to whom you gave your first affections, the 
virgin aspirations of a young and guileless 
heart ? And now, before the bride you had 
selected has even received your vows and 
granted you all the blessings she alone can 
grant, you have fallen from your first deter- 
mination to love her alone in all her purity, 
her beauty, and her grace, and you would 
already share the adoration you had once re- 



90 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

solved to bestow individually on her with a 
frail, sinning daughter of Eve. Ah ! if you 
only know how I have regretted — regretted 
with shudderings and tears, the web I have 
woven round my own life, although I am fully 
aware that I had not seen the truth in all 
its fulness when I took this step. This, this is 
my only chance of atonement ; but to plunge 
wilfully, knowingly, into the flagrant sin of 
disobedience, were an act from which he 
who would lead a holy life must turn with 
horror, and from which I would pray — pray 
fervently, my dear Matthew, that you may 
be spared. Remember, too, every one who 
sins extends the image of his sin far beyond 
the sphere of his personal presence. An 
example of this nature would not fail to pro- 
duce such a generation of increasing sin 
that he who sets it becomes the ancestor, so 
to speak, of a vast multitude of disobedient 
and erring souls. Believe me, the truest 
way to aid the faith which you profess is 



Mr Lently s Cross. 9 1 

to suffer for that faith : resist then, I conjure 
you, without farther hesitation, this tempta- 
tion to backsliding — hold firm to your earlier 
determination, become, God willing, a faithful 
striving priest, and never let the reproach, 
hurled at the Church of Ephesus, be hurled 
against you, " Behold, I have somewhat against 
thee, because thou hast left thy first love^ ' 

While this avalanche of words was fallinof 
on him with such swiftness that they were 
as one crushing blow, Matthew stood pas- 
sively wondering. He was used to Mr 
Lently's high flights and somewhat theatri- 
cal tirades ; but he could not bring his mind 
to think that the present occasion warranted 
the amount of fervour displayed by the over- 
zealous pastor. When so many clergy were 
married, why should he be selected as the 
victim to be offered on the shrine of celi- 
bacy ; but to ask Mr Lently such a ques- 
tion in his present mood would, he felt, be 
worse than useless, so he contented himself 



92 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 

with saying very quietly for him — Matthew- 
being, as we know, a youth of a hasty, 
passionate temperament, — 

' Your words have scarcely convinced me, 
but I will take counsel of my own mind, 
and let you know the result' 

It was evident the Rev. Luke had lost 
ground — not gained it. A week ago Mat- 
thew would not have presumed to dispute 
his opinion, but would have accepted with 
blind obedience any dogma, however authori- 
tative, he had sought to impose. 

Mr Lently was about to commence a 
second portion of his wordy discourse, but 
Matthew took up his hat. 

' Please, Mr Lently, no more to-day. I 
have received as much as I can digest, and 
having been, moreover, wounded to the 
quick, I must beg for breathing space to 
recover my mental equilibrium.' 

This was scarcely a flattering response to 
the Rev. Luke's earnest appeal, but he bore 



Mr Lentlys Cross. 93 

it unflinchingly — perhaps he had enough 
good sense left to recognise that sufficient 
difficulties had been thrown in Matthew's 
path — for he only said very unctuously, — 

' God be with you, my dear young brother, 
and give you light by prayer and fasting 
to discover the truth, and, having done all, 
to stand.' 

And so they parted, Matthew, his soft felt 
hat well pulled over his brows, rolled rather 
than walked with unsteady gait along the 
homeward path, for the interview through 
which he had just passed had fevered his brain 
and convulsed his reason as though it had 
possessed the qualities of a potent and ex- 
citing draught. Suddenly, he stopped and 
considered. To go back to Vantage and 
be cross-questioned w^as, he felt, quite im- 
possible at this moment. Claire's sweet 
eyes reading into his soul were equally dif- 
ficult to answer. No, solitude was his only 
chance of regaining the composure he so 



94 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

much required, and he turned into a side 
walk through a wood, and let his feelings 
rage at will, while he 

' Listened to the wind that now did stir 
About the crisped oaks full drearily ; 
Yet with as sweet a softness as might be 
Remembered for its velvet summer song.' 

And while Matthew dreamt, time passed 
on, till growing weary perhaps of his own 
unsettled train of thought, he roused him- 
self with an effort and tried to force him- 
self back into actual and active life. He 
had been stumbling backwards and forwards, 
striving to define right and wrong to the 
satisfaction of his own conscience, till he 
had become as illogical as a woman. It was 
useless to pursue the subject farther for the 
nonce. He would go home and restore his 
jaded frame with food. What an unpoetical 
ending to the contemplation of a difficult 
love problem ! Nature, however, was stronger 
in Matthew Desborough than romance, and 
nature demanded alimentary sustenance. 



Mr Lently s Cross. 95 

He arrived at home about four o'clock by 
a little gate which opened on to the flower 
garden from a copse ; perhaps he hoped in 
this way to reach the house without meeting 
any of his family, if so, he was destined to 
be disappointed, for George's cheery voice 
called out, — 

' Hullo, Mat, playing truant again; we were 
thinking of having you tambouring, as they 
do in France,' and before he could avoid a 
meeting Matthew found himself in the midst 
of a gay party, consisting of the Duchess of 
Montarlis, Mrs Tremayne, Mr Sivewright, 
his mother and brother. 

Escape was impossible, so there was no 
alternative but to conceal as well as he could 
his mental agitation, and join in the conver- 
sation which was going on. ' From possessing 
usually an excitable manner, he succeeded in 
hiding from every one, excepting Mr Sive- 
wright, the fact of the general mental overthrow 
under whfch he was labouring ; but the Rev. 



96 Sackcloth a7td Broadcloth. 

Lawrence v/as far too acute a physiognomist 
not to read as in an open book the thoughts 
as they passed flightily through Matthew's 
brain, and he had no difficulty in supplying 
all the harassing conflicts through which his 
mind had passed since their interview in the 
morning. Mr Sivewright was sorry for 
Matthew, — he regretted that so much mis- 
taken zeal should be thrown away on bubbles 
— and, both for his own and his mother's sake, 
he would have taken an unusual amount of 
trouble to save the young man the painful 
ordeal through which he saw his mind was 
passing. He must go home, think the matter 
carefully out, and then have an interview with 
Mrs Desborough, — and for this reason he 
declined to remain for dinner, warmly though 
he was pressed both by the lady of the 
house and her son George ; ' he had im- 
portant business,' he said, ' which would 
employ his entire evening.' 

And so a few minutes after the duch- 



Mr Lentlys Cross. 97 

ess and Violet Tremayne had been packed 
Into the pony carriage and had started 
for MontarHs, Mr Sivewright took his 
leave, giving Matthew so friendly a hand- 
shake as to bring the warm colour into his 
cheeks, though little perhaps recked he how 
much more the Issues of his future life lay in 
the hands of Mr Sivewright than in those of 
the Rev. Luke Lently, his chosen director. 

Mr Sivewright's power lay in the immense 
capability he had for weighing the equiva- 
lents of life, an art In which Mr Lently and 
Matthew both utterly failed. 

' Est modus in rebus ; sunt certi denique fines 
Ouos ultra citraque requit consistere rectum,' 

he murmured to himself, quoting his beloved 
Horace as he walked towards the vicarage. 

This probably was the text of a sermon he 
was preparing for Matthew. 

To men of Mr Sivewright's school, a text 
is not necessarily biblical. 

VOL. I. G 



CHAPTER VII. 



ADVICE. 




T is quite true — Matthew has 
engaged himself to Claire Bailey. 
I had hoped he would listen to 
reason and have told no one, not even you,' 
and Mrs Desborough's laces were very 
much agitated as she fidgeted from side 
to side, vainly struggling into a comfortable 
corner for a talk with the vicar. 

* Engaged — but not married,' said the 
vicar smiling — * there seem to be diffi- 
culties.' 

' Indeed there are — my husband can't 
allow him enough to provide for a wife 
and family — and though, I am sorry to 



Advice. 99 



say, he must inherit my fortune, still I am 
not dead yet Mr Sivewright/ and the lady 
looked sufficiently instinct with life to be 
accepted as only forty by any life insur- 
ance company in the kingdom. 

Mr Sivewright bowed and smiled again — 
the mother was in a spiteful mood, and Mrs 
Desborough's spiteful moods invariably 
made the Rev. Lawrence more unctuous 
— besides, he had thought the matter out 
since yesterday, and knew exactly the view 
he meant to take of the case — than which 
there is no stronger weapon for argument. 

' You object to Claire for a daughter-in- 
law ; but not to Matthew marrying any- 
one else, I presume ? ' he asked, but more 
as though he was stating a fact than asking 
a question. 

* To Claire — yes, of course I object to 
Claire. I suppose you know why ? ' 

' Matthew tells me you think them both 
too young.' 



I oo Sackcloth a7td Broadcloth. 

' Pooh, nonsense — that is mere fiction. I 
object to Claire, because she Is Lady 
Laura's daughter, and It has been guerre a 
outrance between Lady Laura and me ever 
since we were girls. She always put her- 
self in some objectionable form between 
me and the thing I most wanted— even did 
her utmost with her usual sly deceit to lure 
from me Mr Desborough's affection.' 

The vicar's head turned just a little on one 
side bent into the least perceptible of nods : 
he was not quite prepared to give full 
credence to this statement — having always 
understood that Mrs Desborough had 
cleverly manoeuvred for the squire, who 
had been, in the first place, more inclined 
to admire Lady Laura. It was not that 
Mrs Desborough was purposely prevari- 
catlnor to the vicar. She had asserted 
this fact so frequently both to herself and 
to other people that she had ended by 
sincerely and firmly believing It. For years, 



Advice. loi 



by a consistent series of snubs and petty 
rudenesses conferred on the inhabitants 
of Swanover Cottage, she had acted up to 
her beHef, for the circumstance that Mr 
Desborough was always very poHte, as 
she observed ' quite affectionate to those 
Bailey's ' — had the effect of some irritant 
poison on his wife's nature. More parti- 
cularly was she annoyed at this juncture, for 
though he did not approve of the fact of 
Matthew marrying at all, he could not be 
coerced Into giving it as his opinion that 
a marriage with Claire was especially ob- 
jectionable. 

Thus it may be Inferred that for the 
last ten days, in fact ever since Matthew 
and Claire had walked together in the 
wood, with no other chaperone than Prig, 
the general tone at Vantage Park had been 
inharmonious and full of jars ; now, how- 
ever, that the vicar had undertaken to 
accord the various tuneless instruments. 



I02 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

perhaps the home-concert would show a 
little symphony. 

' The sins of the mother being visited 
on the daughter, eh ? ' he said with a half 
jocular expression ; but If he meant to 
joke Mrs Desborough Into a good humour, 
he was quite unsuccessful, for the latent 
venom of her nature exhibited Itself viru- 
lently. 

' Claire Is a half-educated doll ! ' she 
said, * with no cleverness about her, except 
a talent for manoeuvring, which she has 
Inherited from her mother.' 

' Humph ! I have not altogether under- 
stood the situation, It seems. I always 
fancied you wished Matthew to marry, and 
were therefore simply raising objections in 
order to make him more anxious to do so. 
You are aware that I consider marriage 
to be the only thing that will sever him 
from the fanatical set with whom he has 
lately become involved/ 



Advice, 1 03 



' Marriage, yes — with anyone but Claire 
Bailey. I would rather see him an Anglican 
Monk, much as I despise the body, than 
married to her.' 

'Just so ; then Mr Lently had better take 
the case in hand. Poor Matthew — if I am 
not mistaken Lently has already been 
sowing the seeds of much tribulation in his 
mind.' 

* And you, Mr Sivewright, one of my 
greatest friends, you actually mean that you 
are inclined to promote this marriage of 
Matthew into the family of my bitterest — ' 
she broke off with a little gulp, and catching 
up her words, went on in a higher key, ' Oh, 
it is too unkind, too dispiriting, to find that 
everybody is against me.' 

* My dear Mrs Desborough, what can it 
matter to me whom Matthew marries, except 
as far as my personal interest in you is con- 
cerned ; all I say is, marriage is the only 
chance of his ever seeing life from a realistic 



I04 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

point of view, and giving up all the ideal 
nonsense with which his head has of late 
been crammed. However, as you seem 
so strongly to object to this alliance, there 
is only one alternative — -send him away. 
Matthew is impressionable, and by this 
means you may — I don't say you will — suc- 
ceed in forcing his ideas into another channel, 
and making him break fresh ground, over 
which neither Lently's teaching nor Claire 
Bailey's dainty feet have ever passed.' 

' You were born a diplomat ! ' exclaimed 
Mrs Desborough, from whose face all the 
malice had suddenly cleared. ' Unfold your 
plan — I am all attention,' and she smoothed 
the laces, and turned down any points which 
seemed to bristle. 

' The whole thing will require very judi- 
cious management, my dear friend,' and the 
Rev. Lawrencel ooked important and grand. 
' Matthew's is no ordinary character. I 
have studied it in every detail since he was 



Advice, 105 



quite a lad. He must be induced, not forced 
— he fancies he wants a reason for every- 
thing, though inter nos he is too illogical to 
be able clearly to sift error from truth — 
hence the self-abnegation with which he 
has listened to Lently — till yesterday, when 
self-will asserted itself in opposition to the 
dogmas of his party ; and the strife has 
filled his mind with rebellion.' 

* How do you know all this ? Did he tell 
you ? ' 

'Had he sufficient confidence in me to 
make me his confessor, diplomacy would be 
unnecessary — no, I have but observed ex- 
ternal signs ; but I feel quite certain I have 
judged aright.' 

* Shall we send him off abroad at once ? ' 

' There is no motive,' answered Mr Sive- 
wright, ' he would regard it as simply done 
to alienate him from Claire, and ^o\Adi poser 
for a martyr during his entire absence, and 
come back more determined than ever to 



1 06 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

have his own way, whatever that way may 
be ; for, mark me, I don't believe at this 
moment he has quite made up his mind what 
it is that he does want/ 

' Well, then, you suggest — * 

' That contradiction should be carefully and 
steadily avoided — that he should be allowed 
to follow the unbiassed dictates of his own 
feelings/ 

' But, my dear Mr Sivewright, where will 
they lead him ? ' 

* Into a direct path, I hope, if we guide his 
steps without his knowing it. To enable him 
to fulfil his destinies in life as a younger son, 
and to marry Miss Bailey with any honour to 
himself, it is necessary that he should con- 
tinue his studies ; that long illness of his has 
been a sad drawback, happening as it did at 
the beginning of a young man's educational 
career. All this should be represented to 
him clearly and forcibly, and the modus 
operandi practically set forth.' 



Advice. 107 



* Just so — there is the difficulty — where can 
we send him ? He can't go back to Oxford, 
that you know ; he has failed so persistently 
in his examinations. Oh ! Matthew is a 
terrible thorn — if he were only more like 
George/ 

* I doubt if George would be more success- 
ful if he were in Matthew's place — he is an 
elder son, and is not expected to work ; but 
to return to the case in point. I suggest 
that for a time Matthew should pursue a 
course of private study under efficient train- 
ing — not in ecclesiastical matters, but in 
classical lore, with a man who will not 
attempt in any way to interfere with his 
religious opinions.' 

* What a difficult plan — such a man will be 
quite impossible to find — people are so fond 
of airing the quirks and ideas they call 
religion.' 

' Just so — still there is an old college friend 
of mine, who, if he could be induced to 



1 08 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

charge himself with Matthew for a time, 
would, I think, prove a valuable mentor. 
You have seen him, I believe ; he was staying 
with me a few months since.' 

' Mr Wharton ! why, he is a free-thinker. 
Oh ! Mr Sivewright, we must be careful what 
we do.' 

' Wharton is no more of a free-thinker 
than I am ; he believes in the broad doc- 
trines of Christianity as they are revealed to 
a clear, capable mind, unclogged by dogma 
and superstition. He is not a Lently, if 
that be what you mean ; but I fancied we 
had agreed to give Matthew free agency of 
thought, and let him find out for himself 
what he does and does not believe. I am 
sure he does not know at this moment' 

* Where does Mr Wharton live ? ' asked 
Mrs Desborough meekly — she was always 
more or less awed when the Rev. Lawrence 
grew positive. 

' He lives in London.' 



Advice. 109 



She gave a little start — he perceived it, 
and went on, — 

' Of course I do not dictate that this step 
should be taken — I only advise. According 
to my view of the case, there is no more 
desirable place than London to which we 
could send Matthew. He will there mix 
with a set of people as yet quite unknown to 
him — people who have had their ideas en- 
larged, their thoughts matured by friction. 
He will hear opinions asserted, doctrines 
circulated, which have found no place in 
his hitherto prescribed orbit. He will pass 
so rapidly from fresh scene to fresh scene 
that it will be strange if, in a short time, 
he has not forgotten to tighten the knot 
which now binds him to Swanover Cottage 
and Ravensholme Vicarage ; in a word, it 
seems to me that the chance is so in favour 
of his becoming a free man under these cir- 
cumstances, that the experiment is worth the 
trial — of course, it remains with you and Mr 



no Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Desborough to take the subject into earnest 

and affectionate consideration.' 

' To send a young man to London is a 

bold step/ said Mrs Desborough ; * there are 

so many temptations.' 

' Certainly there are — but under Wharton's 

guidance, and with the many friends you 

have, and who will, of course, be civil to 

Matthew, I have no apprehension of evil — 
unless a general enlargement of ideas, an 
expansion of brain capabilities, be considered 
an evil — which I deny.' 

* Of course — of course — ah ! if the scheme 
you propose be certain to make Matthew less 
of a visionary, and give him the power of 
thinking boldly and seriously — how gladly 
would I urge Mr Desborough to adopt it — 
only, even then, I have scruples. Do you 
think, my dear Mr Sivewright, that, our 
object attained, we shall see Matthew a 
happier man ? Have we any right to wrest 



Advice. 1 1 1 



from him the perfect faith he has now — and 
to give him — what ? ' 

' Truth ! ' answered the vicar promptly. 
' You are mistaken in imagining that Mat- 
thew has perfect faith ; his mind oscillates 
from one chimera to another, till it is choked 
with fanaticism — there is no opportunity for 
honest growth. Let him see, hear, argue, 
feel for himself ; and then, if he prefer Lently 
and his school to the wider range of views 
which have been offered, let him rest peace- 
fully in his perfect faith. We shall have 
done our duty, which we certainly shall not 
be doing if we allow Matthew to grope blind- 
folded along luminous pathways, without at- 
tempting to remove the bandage.' 

Mrs Desborough did not look altogether 
satisfied — she was evidently a little bit afraid 
of the step recommended by the vicar. 
Expanded, though her views had become, 
principally from his teaching, still she could 
not thoroughly divest herself of the fear all 



1 1 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

women have of taking the Initiative in a bold 
venture ; besides, there were times when 
Mrs Desborough herself was under the 
influence of Mr Lently's fervid preaching, 
and perhaps — had she not been personally 
attracted to Mr Sivewright — it is not wholly 
improbable that she would have joined the 
phalanx who had elected Lently to be their 
Pope. 

In women's religion, unfortunately, there 
is generally mixed a strong amount of hero- 
worship — and Mrs Desborough was no ex- 
ception. Many a daring thought or axiom 
she accepted as uncontrovertible, because it 
was believed by her dear friend and ally, the 
Rev. Lawrence Sivewright. As it had been 
on previous occasions, so it was likely to 
prove now. Mr Sivewright had thought fit 
to interfere in the direction of the home 
affairs at Vantage Park, and he was to obtain 
— what, by the way, he never doubted — his 
own way. 



Advice, 1 1 



No more stern denunciator of priest-craft 
than the Rev. Lawrence ; vet no one more 
ready to make use of the power he managed 
to hold through his office — call him moral 
teacher, or any other latitudinarian name he 
might elect. 

While Mrs Desborough thought, he walked 
silently up and down the room ; after he had 
taken several turns, he stopped in front of 
her. 

* I am rejoiced, my dear friend, to note 
that you are thinking the matter out in all 
its bearings before giving a definite opinion. 
Nothing is so pleasing to a man of my nerve 
as the exercise of free unbiassed thought ; 
if you differ from me — as you may — what 
matter ? our bond of unity will only be 
strengthened by argument — nothing so 
nauseating as perpetual agreement between 
friends.' 

' But I am afraid we shall not have the 
pleasure of a quarrel this morning. I am 

VOL. I. H 



114 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

beginning to think you are right — as you in- 
variably are — this is the best, in fact the only 
plan that will save Matthew.' Mrs Des- 
borough held out her hand to the vicar, who 
pressed it warmly. 

So the issue of Matthew's life having been 
weighed in the scales of Mrs Desborough 
and Mr Sivewright's philosophy, it was de- 
cided that — the squire's assent, of which they 
did not doubt, having been obtained — the 
plan of action they had decided to adopt 
should be put into force at once, and the 
lever applied to the machinery which was to 
have the twofold power of wresting Mat- 
thew from his director and his lady-love. 





CHAPTER VII L 

A FRESH EXPERIENCE. 

ARKET day at Hurton, invariably 
a busy time in the usually dull 
old country town, with its grey 
Bath-stone houses and half-awakened in- 
habitants ! By some established custom, 
however, everybody goes to Hurton on 
market day, not only the portion of the 
community directly responsible for provid- 
ing the necessary commodities of life, but 
county people ; the gentlemen under the 
pretext of being really interested in the 
prices of animal and vegetable products, 
the ladies to shop or flirt. 

On a particular Thursday, however, to- 



T 1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

wards the middle of October, at about eleven 
o'clock In the day, only bo7id fide buyers and 
sellers are to be seen, discussing samples of 
corn, the weight and size of pigs and sheep, 
the excellence of cheeses and the like. As 
by magic, nearly all the Idlers have disap- 
peared, and It Is In vain that the most 
eloquent of Cheap Jacks discourses extra- 
vagantly on his wares. He can command 
but so small a knot of listeners, that he 
packs up his boxes of bargains for another 
occasion, and gets Into the gay yellow gig, 
wheels picked out red, which, with the 
boxes shining underneath, serves In the 
double capacity of advertisement and cart. 
Behind this tiny conveyance, which Is only 
wide enough to hold one person, stands 
the smallest of tigers In the most theatrical 
of liveries, his occupation being that of 
horn blower. A cracked Instrument, emit- 
ting sounds between a trumpet and a penny 
whistle, being used to announce the arrival 



A Fresh Experience, 117 

of his master s well-known equipage when- 
ever they drive into any of the towns of 
which they make the circuit on market 
days. Cheap Jack and his miniature do- 
mestic are, however, on this occasion, bent 
on following in the wake of the rest of 
Hurton, for they have no sooner got outside 
the town than they turn from the main 
road into a narrow lane already thronged 
with people of every age and grade. 

A balloon is going up from Farmer 
Nesbitt's ten-acre piece, and all the popu- 
lation of Hurton has flocked to see it. In 
the centre of the field lies the huge Levia- 
than of the sky, which, in the course of 
time, is to be propelled into mid-air, and 
the gaping open-mouthed crowd looks on 
and wonders from a little distance, the 
space enclosed in proximity to the object 
of their curious speculation being roped off 
for the reception of those individuals whom 
our friend, the Cheap Jack, In his Inflated 



1 1 8 Sackchth and Broadcloth, 

language invariably designates as ' castled 
swells/ 

Foremost among this party — now hand- 
ling the ropes^ now asking pertina- 
ciously leading questions of Mr Garsden, 
the owner of the balloon — is George Des- 
borough. Without being very clever or 
very well read, George has a good deal of 
general knowledge, picked up chiefly by 
viva voce inquiry, which he maintains is less 
strain on the mental faculties and more 
amusing than book learning, while it is 
the most practical mode of attaining infor- 
mation, because usually accompanied by 
ocular demonstration. To judge from the 
thoroughly interested expression of his face, 
he is putting his pet theory into practice 
at this moment ; for so absorbed is he in 
Mr Garsden's explanations that he utterly 
fails to perceive that another person is 
listening with as much interest as himself 
to the marvellous tales Mr Garsden is 



A Fresh Experience. 1 1 9 

relating of the action of machinery and the 
power of gas. It is not till a voice says close 
to him, ' I will go up in that balloon. I am 
resolved. Will you take me, Mr Garsden, for 
five pounds ? I'll risk my neck with pleasure, 
that George Desborough looks round and lifts 
his hat with a smile to Mrs Tremayne. 

' Brave — I know you are,' he observes 
gallantly. ' But, of course, you do not 
mean in sober earnest that you will go 
up in that thing ? ' 

' I never say what I don't mean,' an- 
swered Violet laughing, ' a fact which you 
will discover when you know me better. 
I am going up in that balloon ; there would 
be no fun if there were no danger.' 

' But the duchess ! ' and George looked 
round. 

' The duchess is not here, the duke would 
not let her come, he thought it infra dig. 
or some nonsense ; but no one has any 
right to control me, thank goodness.' 



I20 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

' Is it such a happy thing to stand all 
alone in the world ? ' asked George. ' I 
always thought women liked to have some- 
one to lean against.' 

' Lean against ! For one sturdy oak 
there are a hundred thousand osier twigs 
to be found. Most of my male acquaint- 
ances belong to the last-named species, so 
I am learning to pick my own steps with- 
out support ; and by way of proving 
my strength I am going up in that 
balloon.' 

* If a body will to Cupar, maun to Cupar,' 
said George, laughingly quoting the old 
Scotch proverb. ' Still I know no reason 
why the body maun to Cupar alone. I am 
quite prepared to go too.' 

' You — in that balloon ? What would 
your mother say ? ' 

George grew instantly serious. No man, 
however he may love his maternal parent, 
likes to be twitted about the affection. 



A Fresh Experience. 1 2 1 

* My mother is no coward,' he answered ; 
'and Is fond of new experiences. If she 
were here I doubt If we should prevent her 
from accompanying us/ 

* That acknowledgment on your part is 
chaperonage enough for anybody. So ar- 
range with Mr Garsden, and let us rise 
towards heaven as soon as possible. I 
doubt if we shall either of us ever have 
another chance.' 

George, taken at his word, complied, and 
while he was making preliminary arrange- 
ments with Mr Garsden, Mistress Violet 
looked round at the assembled spectators, 
and rejoiced at the expression of wonder 
she saw depicted on several faces when It 
became known that the lady from Montarlis 
Castle was actually going to trust her life 
In that ungainly machine. There was, 
however, no mistake about the matter ; the 
ducal carriage was waiting for her, and they 
heard the order given to the ducal servants. 



I 2 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Go back to Montarlis without me, and 
tell her grace I shall probably arrive in the 
balloon. You can put me down on the 
lawn, can't you, Mr Garsden ? ' 

The aeronaut shook his head. 

* That I cannot promise. The route we 
take must depend entirely on the wind ; 
but I will do my best,' 

' All right. I daresay the wind will take 
us where we want to go, at least we'll 
hope so. Tell her grace, James, that I 
shall come in the balloon. There is no 
other message.' 

James touched his hat and smiled. He 
was evidently more sceptical than Mrs Tre- 
mayne about the possibility of controlling 
at will the capricious upper airs, 

' Before the carnage really goes, are you 
sure you have quite made up your mind 
that — ' said George, beginning another ap- 
peal ; but it was interrupted by a laughing 
declaration from the lady that she believed 



A Fresh Experience. 123 

* he was turning frightened, and if that 
were the case, she begged he would not 
risk his precious Hfe on her account — she 
could very well go by herself.' 

What could George do but assure Mr 
Garsden that they were quite ready when 
he was prepared to start. They got into 
the car amid the plaudits of the assembled 
crowd, which was quite enthusiastic over 
this exhibition of pluck on the part of the 
pretty, dainty Violet Tremayne, and loud 
above them all was heard Cheap Jack's 
voice, expressing in his vernacular that if 
ever he had a wife, might he find just such 
another as that ''ere lady.' In fact, to a 
woman less accustomed to mix in the varied 
scenes of life, one who had been more care- 
fully secluded, the present demonstration 
would have been most repellant, and George 
Desborough looked at Mrs Tremayne won- 
deringly, as though he expected she would 
jump out of the car, grow hysterical, or 



1 24 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

show in some way her dissatisfaction at 
being made the centre of attraction to the 
populace, a position to which ladies of the 
grand inonde, as a rule, particularly object. 
Violet Tremayne, on the contrary, seemed 
quite in her element, said it was a most 
delightful piece of excitement, that her pulse 
had not beaten so fast this many a day, and 
was evidently thoroughly enjoying herself. 

At last the ropes are loosed, and the huge 
balloon with its precious freight rises with 
startling rapidity from the ground, and starts 
up into space. George, if he had told the 
truth, must have acknowledged that his sen- 
sations on finding himself wafted above the 
* strong firm earth,* whereon his feet were 
accustomed to tread, were not of the most 
pleasurable. He was far from being a 
coward ; had faced danger manfully in many 
a form ; but this frolic he regarded as fool- 
hardy and rash in the extreme. Men, as 
a rule, only enjoy a daring exploit about 



A Fresh Experience. 1 2 5 

which they have, or think they have, some 
knowledge, and on which they can exercise 
their power of will or muscular strength. 
Women, on the contrary, are fearless, and 
consequently most happy when encounter- 
ing a danger of which they neither see nor 
understand the extent. A sense of his own 
total incapacity was painfully present in 
George's mind as they pursued their sky- 
ward journey, and this, combined as it was 
with a sickening feeling produced by the 
rapid and unaccustomed ascent, rendered 
the air voyage by no means Olympian in 
its impressions. 

It was with some difficulty that he managed 
to answer with any heartiness Violet's spas- 
modic bursts of joy — disjointed as they were 
from the fact that she was perpetually ren- 
dered almost breathless by the rapid currents 
of air which every now and then swept past 
them. Having risen a considerable distance 
above the earth's surface — so far indeed that 



1 26 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

familiar objects, such as barns and churches, 
seemed Hke mere specks, they came to a 
sudden stop, and began to sail before the 
wind ; but on Mr Garsden's throwing out 
some sand-bags — to Violet's intense delight 
— they swiftly rose again. 

* If it were only not quite so cold it 
would be perfect,' she said. ' I am so glad 
we came — are not you ? * 

' I shall be glad we came — when we are 
safe at home,' he answered. * You know I 
undertook the expedition solely to please you. 

' How charming to think you are so 
anxious to give me pleasure, Mr Des- 
borough,' said Violet, as ingenuously as if 
she had been only sixteen, and she dropped 
her long lashes, for she had been looking 
at him very brightly. * I hope no evil will 
come of it,' she went on in a very sober 
voice ; ' of course I mean for your sake — 
no one troubles about me.' 

* Oh, Mrs Tremayne, how can you talk 



A Fresh Experie^ice. 127 

so. Though osier twigs may bend, they are 
very difficult to break, and you have at 
least one osier twig at your service.' 

' Ah ! ' and she gave a little sigh. 

The rarefied atmosphere up on high was 
not conducive to sentiment, and moreover 
Violet was bitterly cold ; still it occurred to 
her that it were perhaps worth while to 
make, if possible, a captive of George. 
So she resisted the impulse to give way 
to an immoderate fit of laughter, and sat 
looking very still and just a little perplexed. 

' I hope you are not frightened ? ' asked 
George, after watching her in this new 
mood for a few minutes. 

' Frightened at being in this balloon .<* Oh 
no ! I'm not at all afraid at that,' and her 
voice sank almost into a whisper. 

' At what then ? ' 

* Well, a little at you.' 

* At me ! Good gracious ! Why, I came 
on purpose to protect you.* 



1 2 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Yes, it was very good of you, but I 
am afraid foolish on my part. There will 
be such a talk, and Julia and the duke 
will be so angry ; however, it can't be 
helped now. Don't look so woe-be-gone, 
Mr Desborough,' for George was really 
annoyed by this sudden light she had seen 
fit to throw on the manner of their upward 
flight. 

' Good intentions,' he murmured to him- 
self, * the devil always mixes himself up 
with them. I wish to goodness I had 
never come to this cursed balloon ascent' 

She did not hear his mutterings, or she 
would scarcely have been flattered. His re- 
grets were destined, however, to be tripled 
before the adventure came to an end. 
Even Violet was beginning to have had 
enough of the exploit, for wrapping her 
thin cachemire jacket more closely round 
her, she said, shivering, — 

' Don't you think, Mr Garsden, we might 



A Fresh Experience, 1 2 9 

begin to think about arriving on the lawn 
at MontarHs?' Just before she spoke two 
more sand-bags had been ejected from the 
car, and the balloon had risen with a sudden 
and rapid flight, which delighted the aero- 
naut, but rendered his companions well-nigh 
breathless. 

' Go down already ? ' asked Mr Garsden 
in a surprised tone ; ' the air is not nearly 
thin enough to necessitate a descent/ 

' But I am very cold,' said Violet, ' and 
have fully realised what it is to sit on a 
damp cloud. If that is the chronic condition 
of angels, I'll none of them.' 

She was feebly attempting to feign a 
degree of jollity she by no means felt, for 
pluck was oozing out at every pore ; what 
little she still attempted to retain being 
merely struggled for, to counterpoise, if pos- 
sible, George Desborough's expression of 
utter annoyance and dejection. 

' Do you really wish to go back to earth ? ' 

VOL. I. I 



1 30 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

he asked her ; ' because if you do I am sure 
Mr Garsden will at once direct his balloon 
into a downward route/ 

* Yes, yes. We have done enough to say 
we have been, and that is as much as one 
ever wants of a thing. Besides, it is no 
use to be late for dinner.' 

* Late for dinner ! ' Violet Tremayne had 
yet to learn that air is not so amenable to 
the power of man as steam and electricity. 

Upon George's interference, however, Mr 
Garsden opened a valve and allowed a por- 
tion of the gas which inflated the balloon 
to escape. Slowly they descended, but, as 
it appeared to Violet, much more slantingly 
than they had risen. In answer to her 
observation on this subject, she was told 
by Mr Garsden that the wind had got up, 
but it would be all right, only they must not 
attempt to come down too fast. So they 
pottered along for a while, floating before 
the wind, as it seemed, on a level range. 



A Fresh Experience, 131 

' I wonder what the time is ? ' said Violet, 
feehng half inclined to cry, and giving a 
violent tug at her watch. It had stopped 
at two o'clock, George's some three- 
quarters later. 

' There will evidently be no watches in 
heaven,' prattled Violet, trying a joke ; 
but George did not laugh, and there was 
a long silence, during which they described 
an incalculable journey through space. 

* Don't you think it is getting very late ? ' 
again asked Violet after a while. 

' I fancy so, but I have no idea of the 
hour ; we seem to be so far above the sun 
that one loses all the signs which form a sort 
of natural dial,' answered George gravely. 

'Well, you are not very encouraging, Mr 
Desborough, I must say. Can't you look 
jolly, even if you don't feel so.' 

* And you ? ' he asked with a smile. 

^ Oh, I am only cold. Mr Garsden, are 
you ever going to take me home ? ' 



1 3 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' I hope so, madam ; but I am afraid it 
will not be to-night.' 

* Not to-night ! ' and Violet gave a shriek. 
* You don't mean to say I am to sleep in 
this thing, and have no food ! I am starv- 
ing already, and what will everybody say ? ' 

* I hope we shall have reached comfort- 
able quarters before night,' answered the 
aeronaut, ' though I am afraid they will not 
be at Montarlls Castle.' 

' What on earth do you mean ? Mr Des- 
borough; I must go home.' But George did 
not answer — he seemed bereft of utterance. 

* Can't you speak ? Tell me — where are 
we — why sha'n't I be at Montarlis Castle ? 
Is there any danger ? ' 

* We are crossing the German Ocean,' 
was George's terse reply. 

' Good God ! ' and Violet looked so wild 
that he seized her by both hands, fearful 
lest in her dismay she should throw herself 
out of the car. 



A Fresh Experience. 133 

'It is all right — there is no cause for 

alarm — we shall be in Holland before dark,' 

said Mr Garsden ; ' it is a very good wind, 

and there is a lovely open space where we 

II 
can descend not far from the Hague.' 

'Holland — the Hague — is it all some 
horrible dream ? ' and Violet began to laugh 
hysterically. ' Why did you bring me, Mr 
Desborough? It is all your fault ; men 
always want women to do foolish things.' 

Poor George, it was rather hard on him 
to be thus falsely accused ; but he did not 
attempt to vindicate himself, only sought 
to soothe and tranquillise her. He had 
promised to see her through this adventure, 
he said, and cost what it might he would 
keep his word — at least there should be no 
scandal. But Violet's nerves having once 
given way could not be controlled, and for 
the rest of the dreadful journey she whim- 
pered, sobbed, and asked puerile questions 
by turns ; perhaps George liked her better 



1 34 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

thus than in her usual dashing, mirthful 
mood ; at all events he was very tender 
and gentle in his treatment of her. And 
so minutes grew into hours, and a murky 
darkness seemed to be stealing all around. 

' I am really frightened now,' whispered 
Violet, almost clinging on to George. He 
encouraged her by a hand pressure and a 
few almost loving words. The balloon was 
descending rapidly — the sea was crossed — 
the danger was nearly passed, if only there 
was sufficient light to discern the open space 
to which Mr Garsden alluded. For half- 
an-hour the suspense endured by the two 
unpractised aeronauts seemed like the years 
of a long protracted agony. At last it was 
over — they were safe on terra firma, and 
there was just enough light left in the sky 
to see Violet's white face as she lay in a 
dead faint in George's arms. 

Alone — they two — in the open country some- 
where between the Hague and Rotterdam. 




CHAPTER IX. 

* WHERE AM I ? ' 

HERE am I ? This is not Mont- 
arlis.' And Violet Tremayne 
looked round wildly when she 
found herself in a strange room — an honest- 
looking Dutch woman leaning over her with 
as much apprehension on her countenance as 
though she feared her patient were already 
dead. But the stamen of life was very strong 
in Mrs Tremayne, stronger than her slight 
frame denoted, and having pronounced these 
words as one waking from a long dream, she 
sprang from a bed on which she had found 
herself lying, and stood on the floor confront- 
ing her attendant. It was dark, that is to 



136 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

say, the first streaks of early morning were 
just peeping into the dImly-Hghted room, 
when Violet awoke from the long heavy sleep, 
which, under the combined influences of strong 
air and fright, had begun with an unconscious- 
ness which had alarmed both her male 
companions. She ran her fingers through 
her crispy curling hair and pondered. The 
situation was an anomalous one. 

Ah ! she remembered it all now, and 
George Desborough — the hero of this mad 
adventure — where was he ? 

She asked the question sharply of the 
woman who stood looking at her with 
a sort of stupefied air ; but no know- 
ledge of English had penetrated into the 
good Dutch woman's mind, and when, 
by slow degrees, she had sufficiently re- 
covered from the surprise Violet's sudden 
resurrection had occasioned, she trotted out 
of the room. In a few minutes she came 
back accompanied by a tall thin scraggy 



Where am I ?' 137 



female in very light attire, with an old shawl 
thrown round her shoulders, and her hair 
scrambled up into a knot at the top of her 
head. It was obvious she had just got up 
on being summoned by the attendant, who 
had been desired to tell her when Violet 
should awake. 

Mrs Tremayne had pulled back the cur- 
tains and was looking out of the window ; 
it was just sufficiently light for her to see 
that she was in a somewhat lonely abode 
— probably a farm-house, a very flat un- 
picturesque - looking country being round 
her, interspersed with numberless small 
canals ; but Violet was in no humour to 
be impressed by either the beauty or the 
ugliness of her surroundings — she was 
thoroughly vexed at the position into which 
her love of frolic had plunged her. She 
turned sharply round and asked the new 
comer tartly, — 

' Can no one speak English or French '^. ' 



1 3 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* I can your language a little,' answered 
Madame Hooght, the proprietress of the 
house in which Violet found herself. 

' That is all right ; then give me something 
to eat, for I am starving, and tell Mr Des- 
borough to make haste and let us start at 
once/ 

* Your husband, madame, sleeps ! ' an- 
swered the woman shortly. 

* Yes — in the churchyard at Hyeres ! ' 
muttered Violet to herself; but she did not 
attempt to rectify the statement, only turned 
with avidity to some hot milk and farm-house 
bread which her attendant of the night had 
just brought into her room. Annoyed as 
she was at the turn affairs had taken, yet 
body as usual asserted its dominion over 
mind, and she hailed the food with a welcome, 
and ate with as much relish as if the fact of 
her impromptu visit to Holland left nothing 
to be desired in its circumstances. Having 
finished her repast, she plunged her head into 



Where am I ?' 139 



a basin of fresh cold water, and then began 
to twist into becoming positions her some- 
what rebellious locks — to the no small 
surprise of Madame Hooght, who had never 
before received into her frugal homestead a 
visitor of Violet's type. During these opera- 
tions Violet rattled on, receiving, however, 
but very doubtful answers to her remarks, 
the fact being that Madame Hooght's know- 
ledge of English was too limited for her to 
understand the half that was said. Having 
brushed, with the assistance of Madame 
Hooght, her pretty fawn-coloured autumn 
dress, and arranged the red bows as only 
such deft fingers as she possessed could have 
freshened what, at first sight, seemed disor- 
dered tangle, Violet began to wonder when 
George would be forthcoming, and what was 
the wisest step to take under the difificult cir- 
cumstances in which she had placed herself. 
A little tap at the door, and the hard-featured 
Dutch servant entered with a tiny note. 



1 40 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Breakfast is served in a lower room. 
Was Mrs Tremayne rested ? Would she 
come down ? ' 

Violet assented at once ; an interview with 
her cavalie7^ sei^vente was exactly what she 
wanted, and in a few minutes she tripped 
into the homely farm-house parlour with as 
much self-possession as though it had been 
the great breakfast-room at Montarlis Castle. 

' Good morning, Mr Desborough. I hope 
you slept well ? ' and she held out her hand 
carelessly. 

George, however, by no means reflected 
the lady's buoyancy of greeting. 

He held her hand in his for a minute, 
and then said very gravely, — 

' I am so sorry — for you.' 

Violet took the cue in a moment ; her 
eyes dropped. 

' Ah yes ; but it is my own fault ; I must 
suffer for selfishness, you know. Come and 
have your breakfast, dear Mr Desborough ; 



Where am If 141 



do not make yourself unhappy on my 
account. What has become of Garsden ? 
I thought I should have found him here.' 

* He Is looking after his balloon.' 

' Horrible Invention ballooning. I wish 
I had never been curious about It,' said 
Violet with a little shiver. 

'Yes, Indeed,' and George looked dis- 
mally Into an ^gg he had just cracked. ' I 
am glad you did not catch cold. I was 
afraid you would be quite 111 to-day.' 

' Oh, I am pretty well, thank goodness ; 
but don't you think we had better be getting 
home ? ' and Violet gave him a cup of coffee. 

' Yes, I suppose so ; though It Is very 
pleasant here.' 

* It might be pleasant enough,' she an- 
swered, ' If It were not for a horribly evll- 
tongued world, which Is sure to Interfere 
with every happiness that Is not quite con- 
ventional. I quite dread to arrive at Mont- 
arlis. What will the duke say ? ' 



142 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

' You have a home of your own, have 
you not ? ' observed George. * Why not go 
there ? ' 

' Oh yes, In London. But won't that 
look exactly as if — Mr Desborough, I 
will be guided entirely by you — you shall 
advise. If I had listened to your advice in 
the beginning, I should not have been in 
this scrape now — get me out of it,' and she 
pushed all the cups and plates on one side, 
and doubling her two arms on the table, she 
leaned on them and looked into his face. 

' There is a boat leaves Rotterdam for 
Harwich at two o'clock this afternoon. We 
shall reach London about six o'clock to- 
morrow morning.' 

* Another night away ! ' and Violet hid her 
face in her folded arms. 

* Shall I go over to England by myself, 
and send some friend or your maid to fetch 
you } ' suggested George. 

' No,' she said, springing up suddenly. 



Where a7n I ?' 14, 



' We have begun the adventure together — 
let us finish it. I don't care much what the 
world says ; there is such a thing as living 
down an outcry, I suppose ? ' 

'Mrs Tremayne — Violet — we have met 
so seldom that I am afraid you will think 
me presuming, but this little adventure has 
thrown us together, has it not ? Will you 
be my wife ? ' 

* Oh, Mr Desborough ! it is too bad to 
ask me such a question now. If I say 
** No," it will make it very awkward for us 
to travel home together, and if I say '' Yes," 
I am afraid it will make it rather worse,' 
and she laughed, more perhaps from ex- 
citement than because she saw any fun in 
the position of affairs. 

' I do not understand,' answered George 
soberly ; ' as my wife, no one will dare make 
any remark about this unfortunate little oc- 
currence, and you will at least be free from 
the tongue of scandal' 



1 44 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' If that Is your only reason — merely to 
shield me from censure — I cannot Indeed 
accept the sacrifice,' and Violet made him 
a little curtsey. 

* My only reason ! how can you suspect 
me of such a thing ? Have you not learnt 
that I love you, sweet Violet ? In truth I 
have done my best to make you understand.' 

' Ah ! ' she said, * Is this so ? ' and she 
looked down with the pensive expression 
to which she had treated him more than 
once ; * It Is a pity, for what are we to do ? ' 

' Tell me first that you reciprocate the 
feeling just a little, and then I will tell you 
what we shall do.' 

'Well, I don't hate you,' she said laugh- 
ing, and holding out her hand to him. It 
was quite Impossible for Violet to be senti- 
mental for more than two consecutive 
minutes. 

' And you accept me as a lawful pro- 
tector ? ' 



' Where am I ?' 145 

' Well, faiUe de mieux — yes.' 

' You won't back out when you get to 
England and are amongst your friends ? ' 
he asked wistfully, for he was really very 
much smitten with Violet, and yet did not 
quite understand her wilful ways and merry 
badinage. 

' Good gracious! no. Why should I ? You 
are better than most of the osier twigs — in 
fact, I am not sure you are one at all. 
Under my training you might even turn out 
an elm or an oak ; but I'll only consent to 
this little arrangement between us on one 
condition.' 

' Name it. Whatever it is — I accede.' 

* Dear me, how accommodating you are 
now. After a year of marriage won't the tables 
be turned. Remember I am a widow, Mr 
Desborough. I know all the weak places.' 

' Never mind, as long as past experience 
does not prevent you from trying the ex- 
periment again. What are the terms ? ' 

VOL. I. K 



1 46 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' That until this day six months no one 
is to know one word about the conversation 
that has passed between us to-day.' 

* And wherefore ? ' 

' To save my reputation of course. As 
long as the world thinks we are mere or- 
dinary acquaintances, no one will trouble to 
talk about us ; the moment they think we 
are lovers there will be a fine tale. Don't 
you see ? ' 

* Well, not exactly,' answered George ; 
* surely as my wife you would be safe from 
all slander ? ' 

' Yes — then, but not now. I tell you no 
one must know of this rapid engagement — 
not even dear Julia or your mother. It must 
grow — believe me it must grow. Cesar's wife 
must not be suspected, they say, and I'm 
afraid if we are not very careful Cesar's 
fiancde will come in for a very large share 
of suspicion.' 

' Are — are we not to meet and see each 



Where am I ?' i^y 



other ? This is a very severe verdict, 
Violet.' 

' Of course we are, at the houses of 
mutual friends, and the tiny acquaintance 
sprung up in a balloon will ripen slowly 
into a life-long love with which no divorce 
court shall ever interfere. Oh ! it will 
be so ridiculously respectable, whereas if 
we were to go back now and proclaim 
ourselves engaged — heaven, or the other 
place, only knows what people would say.' 

* And in six months you really promise to 
marry me ? ' 

* Soon after six months. Yes. I suppose 
so. You have won me by a co^t^p de main ; 
and now, my lord, perhaps you will have 
the goodness to woo me.' 

' That will be no unpleasing task,' said 
George, kissing her hand. 

* Oh ! not now, we must arrive in England 
first, and then you shall begin quite en r^gle. 
The boat does not go till two o'clock. 



148 . Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

you say ; let us have a look at Rotterdam, 
and see if we will choose Holland for our 
honeymoon.' 

In another half-hour they bade adieu to 
Madame Hooght, who was still impressed 
with the idea that they were man and wife, 
and after a little conversation with Mr Gars- 
den, who was arranging his balloon pre- 
paratory to starting off in it with the hope 
of reaching England, Mrs Tremayne and 
George Desborough set off for Rotterdam. 
They arrived in the Hoogstras about eleven 
o'clock, having blundered slowly along the 
four miles which lay between them and the 
town in a heavy ungainly conveyance be- 
longing to the proprietress of the farm- 
house. 

' Let us see it all as we are here, and 
leave fretting over circumstances till our 
escapade has found us out,' suggested Violet. 

So they sauntered along the Boomjes, 
Violet for the most part keeping up the 



Where am I ?^ 149 



conversational ball, not exactly because she 
felt thoroughly happy and at her ease, but 
because she was anything but charmed at 
the position In which she had placed herself, 
and because, above everything, she did not 
want George to make love to her. She 
liked him quite well enough to marry him — 
as an eldest son — but she felt she could 
not have love-making added to the excite- 
ment under which she was labouring at this 
time. If any of his own home circle had 
seen George following Mrs Tremayne about 
Rotterdam with the sort of faithful servility 
usually seen in a dog, they would scarcely 
have believed their senses. Only a very 
few weeks ago he had smiled derisively at 
Matthew's love-lorn condition — could it be 
possible that he himself was standing at the 
very gate of a fool's paradise, and was going 
to allow himself to be led about its bewilder- 
ing mazes by a woman ? No one who had 
known George till this moment would credit 



1 50 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

it ; the rarefied air up in the altitudes must 
have affected his whole temperament. 

And so they wandered about over the bal- 
ance bridges, up and down the queer canal- 
intersected town, looked at Erasmus' statue in 
the Groote Market ; went into the churches, 
wondered, speculated, chatted about every- 
thing they saw, till at last they found them- 
selves on the quay which stretches into the 
Maas, and alongside of which was lying the 
steamer which was to bear them to England. 

Of the reception they would meet with 
on their arrival, perhaps both of them felt a 
little doubtful: — though neither liked to own 
it to the other. 




CHAPTER X. 



ANTE-MATRIMONIAL. 

^^g^^HE rage for imitating in the needle- 
work of to-day the embroidery 
of the middle ages, has penetrated 
even into the remote northern counties, and 
Lady Laura Bailey is sitting working at a 
frame by the pretty oriel window which 
has been thrown out to enlarge the sunny 
morning-room at Swanover Cottage. Art 
colours, designs from nature lie scattered 
about — she has studied the whole subject in 
all its details, patronised and pleaded for 
every school of work in the kingdom, till 
some of her friends have been more than a 
little bored by her pertinacity. 



1 5 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Can it be that her zeal has cooled from 
the very ardour with which it was at first 
ignited, for she sits now very thoughtful, 
one hand leaning idly on the frame, the 
other toying with a lapful of silk and crewels. 
Lady Laura, however, is not studying any 
inartistic flaw which she thinks she has 
discovered in the design ; it is evident that 
she is dreaming, and no very pleasant dream 
either, to judge from the pre-occupied ex- 
pression on her usually sweet, calm face. 

Claire — the future of her darling Claire 
— is the picture she is trying to sketch in 
her mind at that moment, but she cannot 
succeed, bright as are the hues in which 
she begins her painting. Like a dissolving 
view they pass before she can even retain 
the fair scene in her memory, and a grey 
tinted misty foreground enshrouds her sun- 
lit horizon. Matthew has paid almost daily 
visits to Swanover Cottage ever since that 
walk he and Claire took through the wood 



A 7ite- Matrimonial. 1 5 3 

with no chaperone but Prig. He has never 
breathed a word of his own mental diffi- 
culties, or of his mother's objections ; but 
Lady Laura is intuitively sensible that all 
is not well. She has known Mrs Des- 
borough too long, they have passed to- 
gether over too many rough bits in life's 
journey, for her not to be able thoroughly 
to read the case as it at present stands. 
Her pride revolts at the idea of Claire 
marrying a man whose family does not 
receive her voluntarily ; but yet, for Claire, 
she dreads any contradiction which may 
bring about a rupture with Matthew. She 
has already noticed that for the last few 
days all has not been well with her little 
girl ; that her bright smiles have vanished, 
her joyous song notes become hushed. 
She, too, has begun to read the signs, and 
has not failed to observe that a cloud hangs 
between her and her lover which she seems 
powerless to dispel. During the rambles 



1 54 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

which they occasionally take in the once 
enchanted wood, he wanders on silently by 
Claire's side, as it were brooding over some 
private wrong ; yet no loving questioning on 
her part can elicit a satisfactory reply as 
to what ails him. 

Not surprising then that the mother, 
feeling rather than knowing of the existence 
of trouble in her daughter's mind, should 
let her fingers forget their cunning as her 
thoughts wander into her child's misty future. 

While she sits pondering there, a foot- 
step is heard on the soft gravel in front 
of the cottage. She gathers up the errant 
crewels, as though anxious to avoid the 
fact of being caught dreaming. It is only 
just in time ; another second, and the Rev. 
Lawrence Sivewright is standing by the 
window. Yet Lady Laura is not one of his 
fold. Ravensholme is her parish church, 
and she attends the Ravensholme services 
regularly. She scarcely perhaps follows the 



A nte- Matrimonial. 1 5 5 

Rev. Luke Lently to the extreme outside 
boundary of his beHef ; but still she receives 
more comfort from his teaching — it seems 
something more staple for her womanly 
clinging nature to rest on than that of Mr 
Sivewright. 

The Vicar of Fernwood-cum-Grasdale is, 
however, no unwelcome visitor at Swanover 
Cottage. Lady Laura fully appreciates him 
as a good companion, though she cannot 
divest herself of a sense of worldliness, 
which invariably creeps over her for a while 
after she has been indulging in a pleasant 
conversation with Mr Sivewright. On this 
especial morning she is more than usually 
glad to see him ; she doubts not he is 
fully conversant with the subject nearest her 
heart, and who knows but that he may be 
able to give her the key for which she 
has been searching so hopelessly of late. 
Pushing her embroidery frame into a cor- 
ner, she goes out into the little vestibule 



156 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

to meet and shake hands with her visitor ; 
the etiquette observed at Vantage Park and 
Montarhs Castle being seldom practised in 
the smaller but perhaps more wholesome 
atmosphere in which Lady Laura dv/ells. 

The first greeting over, and Mr Sive- 
wright seated in the cosy morning-room, he 
looks round as though in some surprise. 

' And Claire — where is Claire ? ' 

* Oh, she is very vv^ell. She is out — 
gone through the wood to take some soup 
to old Mrs Morris,' and Lady Laura felt 
the colour rising uncomfortably to her cheeks. 

Why had she, truthful and straightforward 
as she always was, been induced by a sort 
of instinctive reticence to withhold from 
Mr Sivewright the fact that Claire had 
gone out accompanied by Matthew ? What- 
ever her reason, it was a very useless 
equivocation, as perhaps a faint smile which 
for a moment played round Mr Sivewright's 
full lips denoted ; but Lady Laura was 



Ante -Matrimonial, 1 5 7 

scarcely clever enough, at all events in 
that peculiar sort of cleverness, to read his 
countenance, as Mrs Desborough would 
nut have failed to do. 

'It is very charming to have an only 
child, and that child a daughter as sweet 
as Claire,' he observed. * I always pity 
people with . large families. All the plea- 
sure and interest of watching development 
of character and noting its lights and shades 
are lost, from want of time and oppor- 
tunity, to those parents who are compelled 
to devote their attention to a crowd of 
children.' 

' Yet one child is a terrible anxiety. The 
mother who loses her one child is indeed to 
be pitied, or supposing that one child should 
make a false start or bad choice in life — ' 

' Your child, my dear Lady Laura, is, 
happily, a girl, and one endowed with 
innocence, simplicity, and good sense. You 
can scarcely be exposed to this latter trial. 



1 58 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

If you had a son you might talk of respon- 
sibiHty and anxiety.' 

' Oh, boys can make their own way in 
the world,' said Lady Laura. 

' Ay, if they don't begin with that false 
start to which you alluded just now. Every 
one who has sons has worry and annoyance 
— of that you may be very sure. Even our 
friends the Desboroughs are not exempt* 

' How so — what has happened ? ' 

' Well, Matthew's future career is, of 
course, a great anxiety to his mother, and 
I am not surprised at it, for I cannot at 
all chalk out his after life.' 

Lady Laura looked truly uncomfortable, 
and began to ask what Mr Sivewright 
meant ; but he pretended not to hear her, 
and went on, — 

' Then there Is George — that little es- 
capade of his with Mrs Tremayne is not 
very satisfactory. Now, I like George 
Desborough far better than Matthew. I 



A nte- Matrimonial. 159 

think he is made of better stuff; still, I 
must say he has been a fool in this in- 
stance.' 

' What — what has happened ? I have 
heard nothing.' 

' Not the balloon story ?' 

' Oh, is that all ! I can't see that George 
Desborough was to blame. Mrs Tremayne 
insisted on going up. I am surprised that 
the duchess tolerates that woman — she is 
always giving rise to some story or another. 
What time did they get back ? ' 

* They never have got back,' laughed Mr 
Sivewright. ' That is the comical part of 
the situation.' 

* Good gracious ! but they may be killed.' 

' Oh dear, no ! they are not dead, only 
missing. Have you not seen Matthew to- 
day ? ' 

' No ; I have not.' 

Lady Laura had been engaged in some 
housekeeping affair when Matthew and 



1 60 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Claire started on their walk. Perhaps she 
was glad to answer Mr Sivewright's query 
in the negative, though the fact of its hav- 
ing been put showed that he was by no means 
ignorant of the existing state of affairs. 

* Ah ! I imagined you knew all about it, 
or I should not have mentioned the sub- 
ject. Gossip is not a commodity in which 
I usually care to traffic' 

Mr Sivewright perhaps at the moment 
forgot that a racy story, even if merging 
on the confines of scandal, was not, as a rule, 
an unacceptable pleasure to his reverence. 

' But now you have begun the conversa- 
tion, tell me what has happened.' 

' Well, the balloon was carried much 
farther off than either of the aeronauts in- 
tended to go, that is all. The adventure 
may cost George the penalty of marrying 
Mrs Tremayne — according to my view, a 
terrible alternative. He is a foolish fellow 
— a very foolish fellow.' 



A nte- Matrimonial. 1 6 1 

' Do you mean that marriage is always 
a mistake, or only as regards Mrs Tre- 
mayne ? ' asked Lady Laura laughing. 

' In this instance, I mean personally, as 
regards Mrs Tremayne, though I do not 
think I am a strong believer in connubial 
bliss. I never advocate young marriages 
for men.' 

* Indeed ! Do you not think it often 
steadies a young man ? ' 

'In a very few instances perhaps it 
does so, but for the most part, after a 
fool's paradise has existed for a year or 
two, a man begins to see what a griev- 
ous mistake he has made from the very 
fact of not knowing his own mind. Both 
George and Matthew Desborough are unmis- 
takable cases in point — Matthew especially.' 

* How so ? ' and Lady Laura looked a 
little flustered. She particularly wished to 
ascertain Mr Sivewright's opinion about 
Matthew Desborough, but, at the same 

VOL. I. L 



i62 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



time, she was quite ready to combat it if 
it did not coincide entirely with her own ; 
his answer consequently by no means 
pleased her, for he smiled rather sneeringly. 

* Knowing Matthew Desborough as you 
do, you surely do not give him credit for 
possessing the capability of forming a judg- 
ment, or even, could he do so, for having 
the stability to maintain it' 

* That is severe censure, Mr Sivewright. 
I am very fond of Matthew, his is a lov- 
able, kindly nature.' 

' Granted — and being so, the more easily 
led. His mother and I have had much 
serious talk about Matthew lately. I hope 
the subject of his future life, as it presents 
itself to our minds, will not fail to be seen 
in the same light by you.' 

' You know — ' and Lady Laura hesitated. 
Mr Sivewright at once helped her through 
her difficulty. 

' I know everything about Matthew and 



Ante- Matrimonial. 163 



Claire's summer's day's love making,' he 
said, ' they are both babies ; but we, my 
dear lady, who have felt cold March winds 
and wintry blasts, must look out for the 
storms, the advent of which they, in their 
ignorance and innocence, fail to anticipate.' 

' You have come as a deputy from Mrs 
Desborough to express her disapprobation, 
and to break off if possible all idea of this 
match, I presume,' said Lady Laura rather 
anxiously. 

* Had that been the case I should have 
started by telling you so. Quite the con- 
trary, I have come to make an ally of 
you, in order to promote the happiness 
of both these young .people. For Claire's 
sake, as well as his own — forgive me if 
I speak plainly — it is imperative that 
every effort should be made to strengthen 
Matthew's weak, it must be owned, some- 
what vacillating character. He has failed 
at Oxford so often that he cannot return 



1 64 Sackcloth and Bi^oadcloth. 

there ; yet, as a younger son, it Is necessary 
that he should have a profession. His 
health is now so far re-established that 
there is no farther reason for idleness. It 
is therefore proposed that he should be 
placed with a tutor, in order to read hard 
for the next few months. 

* I thought he was reading with Mr 
Lently ? ' observed Lady Laura. 

The curl of the Rev. Lawrence's finely 
chiselled nostril was sufficient reply to 
show at what a low estimate he held Mr 
Lently's scholarship. 

' He must have regular discipline in 
matters of study, and unbiassed freedom 
of thought ; that he can only obtain by 
having a wider range given to his mental 
faculties than they can possibly have among 
their present cramped surroundings. The 
only chance for Matthew is to leave him 
for a time entirely unshackled by all 
engagements. Let him have no church, 



A nte- Matrimonial. 165 

no restraints, no opinions for a while. At 
the end of six months he will perhaps 
have learned to sift the dogmas and doc- 
trines with which his mind is now filled, 
and be capable of forming an honest 
wholesome judgment.' 

' I suppose I am to infer that you wish 
him to be equally free in matters connected 
with the heart as in those bearing reference 
to mind ? ' said Lady Laura. 

* Naturally. If Matthew is to go away 
for the next six months to seek truth for 
himself, he must do so quite unfettered, or 
It is Impossible that he will ever find it.' 

* It Is a dangerous experiment,' observed 
the lady thoughtfully. 

* It Is Matthew's only chance of being a 
man Instead of a puppet.' 

' I do not presume to have your know- 
ledge of character, or Mrs Desborough's 
cleverness ; but I am sorr)^ — very sorry/ 
and Lady Laura sighed. 



1 65 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* I cannot see the efficacy of the plan. 
If Matthew were my son I should pause 
for a long while, pray very fervently, 
before I allowed him to run so frightful 
a risk.' 

* The risk is in his idling here and hav- 
ing his mind continually racked by con- 
flicting opinions with which he is incapable 
of grappling, much less of classifying them.' 

* Does he know of this change in his life ? 
Has he consented to make the trial ? ' 

* Since he has quarrelled with Lently, he 
is, I fancy, only too thankful to find a new 
prop.' 

' Quarrelled with Mr Lently ? I had no 
idea of this. What has the quarrel been 
about } ' 

* It seems that it is a matter of conscience 
with Lently, that clergy should not marry.' 

' Ah ! ' and Lady Laura looked very care- 
worn and anxious. ' This then is the reason 
that Matthew seems so out of spirits, while 



Ante- Matrimonial. 1 6 7 

Claire looks wonderlngly at the change in 
him; 

* It is impossible for Matthew either to 
find happiness himself or to afford it to 
Claire in the existing position of affairs. 
Now, my dear Lady Laura, do you see 
how imperative it is that Matthew should 
learn to think and act for himself ? ' 

'Yes, yes. Of course he should do that^ 
but still he wants guidance/ 

' He has been in leading strings too long. 
Mr Wharton, a scholarly friend of mine, to 
whom his father has decided on sending him, 
will of course watch for stumbles on the 
road to truth, but Matthew must learn to 
traverse it alone. He goes up to town 
next week, I believe.* 

All this intelligence fell like a thunder- 
bolt on Lady Laura. As she said, she was 
not clever, but she was a good, simple- 
hearted, loving woman, whose faith in holy 
things was strong, and whose way without 



1 68 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

it would have been very blank and desolate. 
Mrs Desborough and Mr Sivewright's bolder 
opinions gave her no desire to entertain 
them — the very self-reliance they imposed, 
would have been irksome to her. Accord- 
ing to her idea, Matthew would be safer 
and happier, living on in blind belief, 
than having his eyes opened to broader, 
wider views ; yet what could she do to 
prevent the experiment his mother and her 
spiritual director were bent on trying ? She 
could but pray for the boy she loved well 
enough to entrust with the future welfare 
of her Claire. Her eyes filled with tears, 
as, at this moment, she saw the two young 
people coming back from their walk in the 
wood, and she thought of the storm clouds 
that were gradually rising over the sun of 
their lives, but of which they were, as yet, 
only beginning to feel the chilling approach. 
The vicar followed the direction of her 
glance, and smiled as he too saw the young 



Ante-MatiHmonial. 169 

people coming towards the house. He did 
not attempt to take a hasty departure, but 
waited quietly till they came in, receiv- 
ing- them with that unctuous paternal 
patronage, which set them both quite at 
their ease — only on Lady Laura's brow the 
thoughtful pre-occupied expression failed to 
subside. 




CHAPTER XL 




CHEAP JACK. 

HEY say — what do they say? 
Who cares what they say ? * 
Still for all that Mrs Tre- 
mayne looks a trifle graver than is her 
wont, and wonders for a moment whether she 
can thoroughly afford to commit a conven- 
tional barbarism ! Then she bursts out 
laughing, as her sense of the comic be- 
comes thoroughly awakened, and the Babel 
of tongues set wagging in scandalous chorus 
at her expense seems to echo all around her. 
Finally, she settles herself in an arm- 
chair by the wood fire she had had lighted, 
the evening being chilly, in the pretty 



Cheap Jack, 1 7 1 



drawinof-room in what she affects to call 
her toy-house in Mayfair, and she proceeds 
to think. Violet Tremayne is one of those 
individuals not uncommonly found in society, 
who act first and think afterwards : hence 
the numberless scrapes in which she per- 
petually finds herself involved, and the con- 
sequent extravagant expenditure of wits 
in order to rehabilitate her occasionally 
dubious position. 

Not even experience had taught Mrs 
Tremayne prudence, and goodness knows 
she had had a more violent tussle with 
the ups and downs of life than is the 
usual lot of women. Perhaps vicissitude 
to her was like alcohol to the drunk- 
ard, a stimulant without which existence 
would be intolerable, for she never failed 
to seek adventure, and more or less to 
rejoice over the imbroglios and difficulties 
into which her dangerous and somewhat 
sporting pastimes led her. To her starting 



172 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

point in life's highway she never alluded, — 
evidently the road all about it was too 
muddy for her to wish even to return thither. 
She had no relations, she was wont to 
observe, and if she had, they were people 
she did not care to recognise. At seven- 
teen she had married Gerald Tremayne, 
not because she loved him, but because by 
doing so she had helped herself out of the 
mud on to a very fair piece of dry ground ; 
for Gerald Tremayne, though a gambler 
and a roud, came of a good old stock, and 
had, moreover, large expectations from a 
maiden aunt, who gave him credit for an 
amount of virtue and sanctity which all his 
familiars knew to be non-existent. He 
died, however, before his believing relative, 
and as the good old lady did not by any 
means include his rattling widow in the 
belief she had in Gerald, she made a fresh 
will, and left her entire property to a 
fifteenth cousin. 



Cheap Jack. 173 



How Mrs Tremayne ever managed to 
keep up her tiny establishment in Mayfair 
no one knew. Sometimes she spent long 
months at Montarlis, but when she was at 
home everything was perfectly done, and 
the appointments almost luxurious. Some 
said she played high, and that when she 
was more than usually hospitable and extra- 
vagant, a recent visit to Monaco had pro- 
vided the seeming abundance of money. 

Be it as it may, Violet Tremayne has 
scarcely ever been in a more impecunious 
position than when she sits in front of the 
fire on that particular evening, reviewing 
her past escapade, with a letter just re- 
ceived from George Desborough lying un- 
opened in her lap. She dares not go back 
to Montarlis, for fear — not of the talk — no 
amount of chatter would disturb her — she 
would have an answer for every sally ; but 
for fear of the ominous silence with which 
she might be received. 



I 74 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

She turns the letter over once or twice, 
sees the Hurton post-mark, but does not 
open it, only goes off into a dream once 
more, and wonders whether the Cheap Jack 
who was so prominently present on the 
eventful morning of the balloon ascent has 
made any observation anent her non-appear- 
ance. Why should she think of Cheap Jack 
at that moment — what affinity can he 
possibly have with the perplexing issues 
of her life ? 

Strange — how even at the most serious 
moments — moments of graver importance 
than the present to Mrs Tremayne, that 
capricious and uncontrollable power thought 
should frequently wander to certain minute 
frivolous incidents which will, impertinently 
obtrude themselves on the consideration 
of the more serious matter one ought to 
have in mind. 

At last having settled her skirts and her 
ideas to her satisfaction, she runs a mother- 



Cheap Jack. 175 



of-pearl paper knife daintily along the 
envelope and draws out George's letter. 

* Dearest Violet ' — she drops the missive 
once more in her lap and recommences 
the thinking process. What right has he 
to accost her thus — does their compact 
warrant it ? 

Then comes the next query — Does she 
love George Desborough ? 

' No, no,' she answers, with a decided 
shake of her little head — her pulses beat no 
higher at the mention of his name, her colour 
neither comes nor goes as she sees his writ- 
ing on the sheet of note paper in front of her ; 
but he is an eldest son — this time the settle- 
ments must be quite en rdgle — Violet will 
not again put her head into the noose with- 
out having these arrangements fully carried 
out. This fact being decided, she turns 
once more to the missive, and her brow 
lowers ominously as she reads, — 

* Mr Sivewright ! ' — how dare he interfere 



1 76 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

in her affairs ? Then guerre a outrance is 
declared between them — it remains to be 
proved which has the greater influence over 
the duchess — a Httle pressure and the whole 
thing will right itself. ' I believe I was a 
fool not to go straight back to Montarlis 
Castle, but it is of no use deceiving myself 
— I am just a little bit afraid of the duke ;' 
and she jumps up and begins to walk about 
the tiny room, as though her pent-up feel- 
ings seek a wider range. 'And Julia has 
not written one word — of course that is 
the Rev. Lawrence's fault — really her grace 
must be most terribly forgetful if she 
imagines she can so easily disembarrass 
herself of me. I'll wait two more days, and 
then if she does not write or take some 
notice, I'll send a telegram, which will, I 
think, bring the colour into your aristocratic 
cheeks, my grand, white skinned Julia. Yes, 
there' is a double advantage ingoing the pace, 
for while it warms one's blood at the time, 



Cheap Jack. 1 7 7 



it also gives one, later on, the power to 
remind a comrade how near they were to 
you in the race. They don't love me at 
Montarlis, but they will have to put up 
with me till I have either married George 
Desborough, or some one more advanta- 
geous/ and she stood before a mirror in 
an old Venetian frame, and coquettishly 
arranged her curls. 

The visitor s bell startled her. 
' Who on earth can it be ? London is at 
zero, and it is horribly late ! ' 

She looks at the old clock on the mantel- 
piece — a quarter to nine. She thrusts 
George Desborough's letter into her pocket 
and takes up the third volume of a novel. 
The button boy, who is Mrs Tremayne's 
sole male attendant, throws open the door, 
and presents a card on a silver salver. 

' Mr Varley. I don't know the name, 
it must be some mistake,' says Violet, after a 
moments pause, during which a very astute 

VOL. I. M 



1 78 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

observer might remark that her brow puckers 
Into something very much Hke a frown. 

' What is he Hke ? ' 

' Not a gentleman, though his clothes are 
good,' answers the page, with that prompti- 
tude for sorting gold from dross so peculiar 
to the sharp Londoner. 

* Go and ask him his business, Tom,' 
and during the short absence of the boy, 
Violet fidgets restlessly about the room. It 
is obvious she is not quite happy in her 
mind about the requirements of this un- 
known Mr Varley, 

' Bah ! he is only some horrible dun,' she 
decides at last, as she throws herself once 
more In her arm-chair, just as Tom comes 
back with Mr Varley's message. It is in 
the form of another card, on which is 
written, — 

* Cheap Jack, from Hurton/ 

' Good gracious ! how odd,' exclaims 
Violet. ' Show him up at once,' and then 



Cheap Jack. 179 



to herself, while Tom goes to obey her 
orders, ' How delightful ! just when I was 
dull and wanted an adventure, too. I 
wonder what he can possibly want.' 

Cheap Jack came into the room by means 
of three or four glissades, which served to 
give his body a most obsequious curve. 
He was a small active man, with sharp 
features and a hook nose — in fact he was 
so very much over-nosed that one almost 
forgot that his face had any other charac- 
teristic, though in reality his twinkling 
eyes revealed latent cleverness. He was 
evidently got up for the occasion, and 
had expended much pomatum in plastering 
his straight black hair close to his cocoa- 
nut - shaped head. The blue and white 
striped blouse, and blue velvet gold-em- 
broiderqd smoking-cap which he wore when 
exercising the functions of his calling 
were replaced by a much creased black 
.frock-coat, buttoned up in the front, and 



1 80 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

surmounted by a scarlet cravat tied in 
an ingeniously intricate bow. He had left 
his hat in the hall, but he carried in his 
hand a box about a foot square, which he 
held up towards Violet as he chasse-ed up 
to her. She met him with a peal of 
laughter, but it was so pleasant and cheery 
that there was nothing to offend him in 
the sound ; on the contrary, it seemed to 
fall on his ear as a welcome, for he stopped 
suddenly, and looked up smiling at the 
laugher. 

* It was put up for you in a raffle 
at Meckham Fair, and won,' he said, 
putting the box on a table close to Mrs 
Tremayne. 

* What ? ' she asked, still laughing ; but 
she looked at the box very much askance, 
as though afraid it might contain some 
explosive substance. 

* Mementoes of great deeds is due to 
every heroine/ explained Mr Varley pomp- 



Cheap Jack, i8i 



ously, with strong accents on all the wrong 
syllables. 

' I don't in the least understand — you have 
made some egregious mistake.' 

* Mistake, madam. I have been in the 
cheap line too long to make many mistakes. 
Open that there box, if you please. Don't 
be afraid, it ain't nothing as 'ull jump,' 
for he could not help remarking a certain 
amount of nervous trepidation in Violet's 
manner. 

With dainty manipulation, and standing 
as far off from the box as she possibly 
could, she cut the string, and then jerked 
open the lid with the point of her knife. 
Nothing but a mass of paper and shavings 
lay before her. 

' I have opened the box, please take out 
the paper,' she said, looking a little beseech- 
ingly at Cheap Jack, and moving to a still 
more respectful distance from the table. 
He observed her with a smile, and having 



1 8 2 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 

removed a deep layer of shavings, displayed 
a glass balloon of tiny dimensions. Violet 
gave a little scream. 

' You nasty rude man, who sent you here 
to twit me ? Take away your horrid toy, 
and never let me see your face again,' 

Cheap Jack's countenance fell to zero. 
This was by no means the reception on 
which he had calculated when the admira- 
tion Mrs Tremayne's daring exploit had 
awakened in him prompted him to present 
her with the fairy balloon which, chance 
having placed it in his hands, he thought 
was a fitting memento, as he called it, of a 
great occasion. But how could Cheap Jack 
know that Violet deeply regretted the ad- 
venture, and would fain have its very re- 
membrance obliterated for ever from the 
mind of man and woman ? How could he 
tell that she was at that moment depressed 
by the ominous stillness which, reigning 
among her friends, made her dread the 



Cheap Jack. 1 8 



o 



bursting of a storm which should carry her 
away from her place in society by its up- 
rooting violence. 

They looked at each other for a few 
seconds, these two anomalous subjects, and 
each tried to take stock of the other's feel- 
ings. From Mr Varley's pained, humiliated 
expression Violet inferred that he was a 
principal and not an agent, and by the 
sudden jumping at a conclusion for which 
she was celebrated, she resolved to use him 
if possible to her advantage ; while he — well, 
he was accustomed to snubs, yet he regretted 
just a little bit that he had come — that, 
carried away by his great admiration for 
Mrs Tremayne, he had so far forgotten him- 
self as to be guilty of a piece of unwarrant- 
able presumption. When the short watch 
they had both been keeping over each 
other's features was over, Mr Varley began 
to cover up his bit of glass work, while 
Violet was the first to speak. 



I 84 Sackcloth and Broadclolh. 

' Stop a minute/ she said, ' let me look at 
It just once again,' 

He took it out of the box and held it up 
in all its dainty beauty, 

* It's first rate workmanship — blown at the 
best manufactory in England, every detail 
perfect, even to cords.' 

' Ah ! I wish I had never seen a machine 
like that before, Mr — ' and Violet looked 
at the card lying on the table before she 
ventured on the word, ' *' Varley." ' 

* Wasn't your experience a pleasant one ? 
I am sorry now, you was so brave,' 

' And I am to keep this lovely miniature 
balloon as a trophy or memento, or whatever 
you call It ? ' she said laughing, and taking it 
into her own delicate fingers. 

He bowed assent, looking perhaps more 
surprised than pleased ; the sudden change 
in her manner puzzled this man, who was 
totally unaccustomed to the vagaries of great 
ladles. As for anHhx 'teiisee, it did not 



Cheap Jack. 1 8 5 



occur to him that such a thing could exist 
in this class of life, though he was fully and 
entirely alive to the commerce of motive 
and cause, which was very briskly proceeded 
with in his own trading career. 

Mrs Tremayne's next question after she 
had delivered herself of a profuse amount 
of thanks, produced no especial meaning 
to his mind. Merely as something to say 
did he regard the query as to when he 
was likely to be in the neighbourhood of 
Hurton. 

' Very soon,' he answered promptly ; ' there 
is Meckleton Races next week, the course 
is just a mile from Vantage Park, Squire 
Desborough's place, you know.' 

Violet bowed her head. 

* I wonder if you would charge yourself 
with a commission for me when you go 
back into those parts.' 

' Would I ? why, with all the pleasure in 
the world.' 



1 86 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' When can you make it convenient to 
call here again ? ' 

* Whenever your ladyship pleases to ap- 
point/ Violet had risen to ladyship, as Mr 
Varley's good-humour increased. 

* To-morrow, rather earlier than this, say 
six o'clock.' 

He bowed his head and shuffled his feet 
as though the carpet were red hot. 

' It is only a small parcel I want to send 
to some one in that neighbourhood, and I 
shall feel obliged if you will deliver it your- 
self,' explained Violet, turning the glass 
balloon round and round with admiring 
scrutiny, and finally tying it with crimson 
ribbon to a bracket near the fireplace, while 
Mr Varley, having promised to deliver the 
parcel, looked and wondered. Then she 
rang for the button boy, and bade him 
bring some glasses and sherry, and having 
stood with surpassing fortitude the drinking 
of her own health by her strange guest, she 



Cheap Jack. 187 



at last succeeded in dismissing him in the 
happiest frame of mind. He had quite for- 
gotten the snub with which the interview 
had commenced, and went whistHng down 
the street, looking so universally delighted 
with himself and the whole world as to 
make the young and ragged sweeper at the 
corner observe to a companion, — 

* That master had come out of yon house 
uncommon squiffy.' 

Violet laughed. She touched her new 
toy and set it swinging, and then she stood 
looking at it and laughed again ; finally, 
having felt that George Desborough's letter 
was safe in her pocket, she began to turn 
out the contents of some drawers at the 
side of a Davenport which had been pushed 
into a corner, as being neither old enough 
nor new enough for fashion's requirements 
in the way of furniture. 



'^fs^ea^*- 



CHAPTER XII. 



MRS GILES. 




HE Rev. Luke Lently Is standing 
at his study door — the usual look 
of stereotyped asceticism seems 
temporarily to have departed from his face, 
on which lingers just half a smile. He Is 
rubbing his thin hands slowly together and 
listening. His companion is a lady long 
past even the suspicion of loitering within 
the very elastic boundary known as middle 
age. She Is a dry shrivelled woman with 
frizzly grey hair which lies In little tufts about 
her forehead, surmounting a countenance, of 
which the leading characteristic Is asperity. 
Her clothes, though neat and tidy, have no 
pretence of being fashionable ; on the con- 



Mrs Giles. 



trary, they are ludicrously the reverse, unless 
very full short skirts, displaying sturdy feet, 
cased In strong country-made leather boots, 
may be considered fashionable. Yet this is 
Mr Lently's pet parishioner — his factotum 
— the one Individual who shares In their full- 
est degree his beliefs and opinions, and who 
seeks moreover to assist him in carrying out 
to the very letter all the multitudinous pro- 
jects by which he hopes and believes he 
will coerce mankind into a full participation 
in all his views. 

Mrs Giles has been a widow for fifty 
years — for the last twenty she has lived 
what she herself calls ' on the confines of 
the church,' that is, when translated Into 
plain language, she has been slave to some 
pet minister, and thus obtained that stimulus 
in life which she failed to find in the mono- 
tony of her childless companionless home. 
For the first ten years she had served in 
evangelical leading strings, then she met 



1 90 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Mr Lently, and becoming a convert to his 
fervid teaching, she had declared herself a 
zealous disciple ; and when the Rev. Luke 
gave up a surburban curacy for the more 
comfortable and remunerative position of 
Vicar of Ravensholme, Mrs Giles took a 
cottage in the parish and practised good 
works under his fatherly supervision. With 
Mrs Lently she had but little in corhmon ; 
her existence she designated as the one blot 
on a good man's life, and her shortcomings 
were regarded by the rigid practical Mrs 
Giles with — regretfully be it spoken — a mere 
modicum of Christian charity. Had she been 
less severe In her strictures on poor Mr 
Lently's failings ; had she elected to help and 
advise the wife, instead of living in a state of 
flattering subserviency to the husband, who 
shall say how different might have been the 
tone of domestic life at Ravensholme ; but 
Mrs Giles' ideas on the subject of good works 
did not drift in this direction ; after all, we 



Mrs Giles. 191 



can only see good or evil according to the 
light given us. 

The Rev. Luke smiles as he listens to 
Mrs Giles' conversation. It is of mundane 
affairs. She Is administering a little of the 
luscious jam without which it were impos- 
sible to swallow the bitter life pills he daily- 
imposes on himself with conscientious com- 
pulsion. The doings at Montarlis Castle and 
Vantage Park form the staple subject for 
their talk on these occasions. Strange that 
human nature, even when purified to the very 
highest degree, must at times find a valve 
for its superfluous frailty, and that In cases 
where greater sins are banished, yet gossip 
and scandal Invariably hold their ground. 

The balloon ascent ! Yes, Violet Tremayne 
was right — It was the universal topic, dis- 
coursed of throughout the whole country ; 
no two people met without throwing a stone 
at the glass house in which she and George 
Desborough had rashly located themselves ; 



192 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

even Mrs Giles and Mr Lently gave way to 
unkindly allusions and little jokes ; but then, 
be it remembered, Mr Lently was never per- 
mitted to cross the threshold of Montarlis 
Castle, and felt that he was only received on 
sufferance at Vantage Park. Moreover, he 
had not afforded himself the luxury of treat- 
ing those opposed to him in matters of faith 
with indifference, as Mr Sivewrlght did. He 
never forgave a snub, though he frequently 
exposed himself to the reception of one, not 
having neglected to court more than one from 
the Duke of Montarlis, to whom he was per- 
fectly aware that his particular tenets were 
especially distasteful. 

He smiled at the fancy of the airy equi- 
page bearing the dashing Mrs Tremayne 
into the realms of space. It was a freak of 
the elements which could not avoid awaking 
a smile ; but the passing mirthful ebullition 
died on a sudden to be replaced by a stern, 
cold glance at Mrs Giles' next remark. 



Mrs Giles. 



193 



'And now Mr George Desborough will 
have to marry the dainty lady. To finish the 
pretty romance, there will be two Desborough 
marriages, for they say Matthew is engaged 
to Miss Bailey.' 

' God forbid ! ' ejaculated the Rev. Luke 
fervidly. * I have placed my veto on the 
unholy step.* 

' And has Matthew promised to be obe- 
dient ? Alas ! my dear pastor, I fear there 
is more mischief going on in the fold than 
you are aware of.' 

Mrs Giles, in her love of gossip, could not 
even resist giving information which she 
knew would wound instead of amuse her 
beloved vicar. 

'How so, what fresh calamity has fallen on 
my flock ? ' 

* Only that you are soon to lose one of 
them altogether.' 

' Indeed, what have you heard ?' 

VOL. I. N 



1 94 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* That Matthew is going to be sent to a 
tutor in London.' 

* A wise measure — a very wise mea- 
sure ! ' half soliloquised Lently, 'that is if 
the choice has fallen on a just and faith- 
ful man.' 

' Some years ago, when I was a much 
younger woman than I am now, and conse- 
quently more given to the vanities of the 
world, I was living in the neighbourhood of 
London ; next door to my dwelling there 
resided in a state of semi-genteel poverty a 
family of the name of Wharton. They held 
their heads up pretty high, notwithstanding 
their want of means, for they were born 
among the aristocracy— at least she was — 
the husband was a literary man — spent 
his time among old folios and philosophical 
treatises. Mrs Wharton and the girls were 
musical, however, and I have spent more 
than one evening pleasantly enough in their 
society.' 



Mrs Giles, 195 



' Why are you telling me this now ? ' inter- 
rupted her companion. 

* You will see the point directly if you will 
only have a due amount of patience, Mr 
Lently. After I had known the family about 
six months a son appeared, of whom till then 
I had only heard. He had been abroad 
finishing his education, in other words, cram- 
ming his head with metaphysical German 
nonsense, and losing what small amount of 
religious faith he may ever have possessed. 
I thought him a fine young fellow in those 
days, — thanks to your teaching, I regard him 
as a heathen now. Dear me ! I daresay he is 
a man of fifty by this time. He was a very — 
permit me the word — jolly sort of young man, 
strong in his own opinions, eloquent in his 
talk — almost converted me into the belief 
that free thought was the only aim and 
object of man. He was little more than a 
boy then — he is a professor now, with no 
end of letters strung after his name, and 



196 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

he it Is who has been selected as Matthew's 
tutor.' 

A low moan of agony escaped from Mr 
Lently's lips, his tight Roman collar evi- 
dently choked him — and then he asked with 
sudden energy, as though hope, half crushed 
by Mrs Giles' intelligence, had sprung once 
more into life. 

' But he, like yourself, has been converted, 
has given up these pernicious opinions long 
since ? ' 

She shook her head. 

* Though he is professedly a scholar, 
he is grovelling in the pathways of 
darkness,' she answered, and then they 
both sighed in chorus, and Lently 
asked, — 

' Who has done this evil thing ? ' 

* Mr Wharton is an intimate friend of the 
Vicar of Fernwood-cum-Grasdale/ 

' Sivewright ! He will have much to 
answer for. How a man dare live in open 



Mrs Giles. 197 



defiance of all the canons of holy Church as 
he does, Is a mystery to me/ 

* How odd Matthew should not have told 
you of the change in his plans.' 

* Matthew Is not wholly subjugated. He 
is still restive of the yoke. He cannot give 
himself up soul and body to authority. I 
have yet much vacillation of purpose to fear 
for Matthew. The Idea that he has thought 
of entering on the matrimonial state fills my 
mind with sadness.' 

* Gracious !' ejaculated Mrs Giles, on whose 
ear at that moment fell discordant sounds of 
nursery tribulation, and before she had time 
to transfer her feelings into words, the 
younger members of the Lently family ran 
shrieking round the corner of the house, 
utterly regardless of their father s frowns or 
their mother's whining threats, which were 
heard in the far distance feebly promising 
a punishment she was powerless to inflict. 
Mrs Giles, to whom the little Lentlys were 



198 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

particularly antipathetic — in fact, she always 
strove in her own mind to ignore the fact 
that the pastor had any family and belong- 
ings — immediately took her leave, walking 
down the footway into the churchyard, which 
she crossed, coming into the main road by a 
little wicket just as Mr Sivewright was rid- 
ing lazily by on a sleek cob, which was the 
envy of more than one middle-aged squire. 
Certainly the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright 
had the peculiar knack of invariably dis- 
covering and possessing himself of the best 
things in life. He raised his hat with an 
unctuous bow to Mrs Giles, and went on his 
way, she looking after him the while with very 
vinegarish glances. There was a sovereignty 
of manner about Mr Sivewright, an indiffer- 
ence to their opinions and their dictums, which 
made all the opposite religious faction fear him. 
No surer mode of holding a high position 
in the eyes of others than to seem to have 
an exalted place in your own esteem. 



Mrs Giles. 199 



That Mr SIvewrlght acted on this axiom, 
either purposely or by accident, there is Httle 
doubt. Mrs Giles' way lay in the same direc- 
tion as that of the mounted divine, who was 
going to Montarlis Castle. She followed 
him for a few hundred yards, and then she 
turned in at a little green gate. She stood 
leaning against the gate looking after him ; 
when he was quite out of sight she walked 
slowly up a narrow path leading to a cottage, 
of which the door stood open, and entering a 
small rigidly furnished sitting-room sat down. 
She looked round the room with a very self- 
satisfied expression in her face — the religious 
pictures which were here and there dotted on 
the white walls reminded her of various phases 
of feeling, under the dominion of which she 
had hung them there — the bare floor with its 
occasional rug, the high-backed cushionless 
chairs, the coverless wooden tables, the cur- 
tainless windows, even the mediaeval clock 
serving for sole mantel-shelf ornamentation 



200 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

all pointed to a life of asceticism in 
which Mrs Giles gloried, a life of self- 
regulated, self - inflicted conventual rule. 
Whether for the love of God or for the love 
of the Rev. Luke Lently she had chosen 
this life, it had been difficult for Mrs Giles 
herself to have defined, so inseparably did 
she connect in her mind the zealous friend 
whose teaching was so dear to her, with the 
Deity they both served according to their 
light. Yet Mrs Giles had not always been 
what she now was — did she not herself 
tell Mr Lently so but half-an-hour ago. Of 
all the history of her past life, however, she 
had not thought it necessary to inform him — 
as it was enclosed in the almost impervious 
wrapper of long long ago ; perhaps she had for- 
gotten what lay therein concealed. Either the 
sight of the Rev. Lawrence Sivewright riding 
along the road towards Montarlis had re- 
called it, or perhaps it was the conversation 
anent Mr Wharton which she had just had 



Mrs Giles. 201 



with her pastor. Yet what possible connec- 
tion could or did exist between Mrs Giles' 
very middle - class career and the previous 
history of that particularly thorough - bred 
scholar-like gentleman Mr Sivewright ? 

Very certain it is that he never bestowed 
a thought on Mrs Giles, or even mentioned 
her name when she was alluded to in the 
neighbourhood, simply connecting her ex- 
istence with that of Mr Lently, and smiling 
at what he called ' a flagrant piece of pet 
parson worship.' 

Of course the friendships borne him by 
the Duchess of Montarlis and Mrs Des- 
borough were individual, between woman 
and man, and had nothing whatever to do 
with divine office. 

If Mr Sivewright had ever seen Mrs 
Giles in years gone by, he had entirely 
forgotten the fact; yet she could have 
told, had she chosen, more than one epi- 
sode of his early youth, when he and 



202 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

young Wharton, after being at Oxford to- 
gether, had devoted a year to philosophy 
in a German university, and had come back 
to London to start on their career as men ; 
Wharton simply signing himself philosopher, 
while Lawrence Sivewright became a clerk 
in holy orders, with the Vicarage of Fern- 
wood-cum-Grasdale in prospect. 

Mrs Giles sits thinking over all this, and 
the tidy little village hand-maiden bringing in 
the tea wonders why the mistress, usually so 
exact In all the details of daily life, * daunders ' 
instead of taking off her bonnet and cape, 
as she is wont to do the moment she enters 
the house, instantly beginning some active 
employment, either in connection with soul 
or body. But even the sight of Patty with 
the tea does not move Mrs Giles, and the 
girl has placed it on the table and made 
a good deal of clatter with plates and knives 
before her mistress goes up the little stair- 
case to her own room ; and even when she 



J/rj- Giles, 203 



has reached it, instead of at once replacing 
her poke bonnet by the white full bordered 
cap she usually wears, she stands looking 
out of the window. ' Matthew Desborough ' 
is the name that almost mechanically drops 
from her lips ; then it is not Lawrence 
Sivewright's past over which she is dream- 
ing ? No — only as it bears any influence on 
Matthew Desborough's present. Not that 
Mrs Giles has any personal and deep in- 
terest in that young man, except as regards 
his relations with Mr Lently. Perhaps she 
had rejoiced when she thought he was re- 
solved to waive the question of orders, and 
was determined to marry Claire Bailey. 
Not for the Church's sake, be it thoroughly 
understood ; but Mrs Giles was a woman, 
though an old one, and she was anxious to 
keep her influence over her pastor fresh 
and full. The age at which jealousy dies 
in the feminine heart has never yet been 
clearly defined. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



CRACKLING ICE. 




FEW seconds after the Vicar 
of Fernwood-cum-Grasdale had 
Hfted his hat to Mrs Giles 
he forgot the fact of her existence ; and 
he and his sleek cob, alike enjoying the 
beauty of a soft autumnal afternoon, jour- 
neyed tranquilly along towards Montarlis 
Castle, the vicar guessing as little as did 
his equine companion how many rumina- 
tions meeting him had produced in the 
mind of the ' eccentric widow,' as he usually 
designated her. 

Arrived at his destination, and his cob 
having been led round to the ducal stables, 



Crackling Ice. 205 



he was at once ushered into the library, 
where five o'clock tea had preceded his 
Cidvent by a few minutes. 

If a tete-d-tete talk with the duchess was 
the object of his visit, he was destined to be 
disappointed, for there was quite a little 
coterie of privileged intimates sipping the 
gossip-flavoured beverage, alike welcome in 
the castle and the cabin. 

He shook hands with the fair chatelaine, and 
bowed to one or two guests but little known 
to him, while perhaps a very keen observer 
might have noticed just a tinge of disappoint- 
ment on his countenance ; scarcely, how- 
ever, because the duchess was surrounded by 
friends. Mr Sivewright was perfectly aware 
that it was the usual hour of meeting, and 
even if he were desirous of a conversa- 
tion with the duchess, he was fully sensible 
that under no circumstances is a private talk 
more thoroughly and conventionally obtained 
than in a crowd. He only found what he ex- 



2o6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

pected then on entering the richly stored 
library at Montarlls Castle, on the many 
treasures of which the sun at that moment 
was casting, as though lovingly. Its depart- 
ing rays through the small-paned mullloned 
windows — with one exception. There was 
a curly-haired brunette seated on a low chair 
by the table ; she had thrown a large Gains- 
borough hat at her feet, and was doing the 
honours of the occasion for the duchess. 

'You don't take sugar, I think, Mr Slve- 
wrlght ? How are you ? ' she said flippantly 
with a little nod, holding a large lump 
daintily In the tiny old-fashioned tongs as 
the vicar approached her. 

' Thank you ; no tea.' 

Ah ! there was to be found the reason of 
Mr Sivewrlght's disappointed look ; he did 
not expect to see Violet Tremayne re-estab- 
lished, at all events not so soon, In her old 
familiar relations with the duchess. Further- 
more, he had not been consulted on the 



Cracklmg Ice. 207 



matter, which was, at the least, not flattering ; 
but he could have passed the seeming neglect 
very lightly by, had not the fact of Mrs 
Tremayne being there involved, according to 
his views, such very grave issues. For a 
moment or two the arrival of so important a 
member of society as the Vicar of Fernwood 
had silenced the busy talkers, all of whom 
were ladles, the male guests at Montarlis not 
having yet returned from shooting; but Mr 
Sivewrlght's courteous affable manners soon 
set every one chattering again even more 
freely than before, and, taking a cup of tea 
from Mrs Tremayne, he handed It to the 
duchess. Their eyes met in one flash, and 
she said very quietly, scarcely moving her 
lips as she spoke, — 

' I could not help it ; ' then as if she feared 
even that instantaneous exchange of con- 
fidences might be perceived, she went on, — 
* Vi, dear, have you forgotten Mrs Belllng- 
ham '^, She has had no tea.' 



2o8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

Meanwhile Mr Slvewrlght passed to the 
farther end of the room, with his usual 
urbanity, to devote himself to a rather pretty- 
looking shy girl, who was sitting apart from 
the others. She was only just out, and by 
no means au courant with the dashing talk 
of the day, having been carefully kept to 
a school-room routine which admitted no 
gleams of social light. In her heart she 
scarcely thanked the vicar for his notice, 
kind though It seemed, but she hardly knew 
how, he led the conversation to some of her 
pet books, and in a very few minutes she 
was talking glibly, without blushing and 
paling at every alternate moment. Yet, 
could she but have known it, she had more 
to fear from Mr Slvewrlght than from the 
usual carpet knights whose platitudes awed 
her and whose chaff struck terror into her 
breast. 

Mr Slvewrlght was studying human nature. 
He was wondering how long it would be 



Crackling Ice. 209 



before this frightened child would develop 
into the consummate actress most of her 
fashionable sisters had become ; and his eye 
wandered from the graceful stately duchess, 
who was his beau-ideal of womanhood, to the 
little rosy beauty with whom he was talking, 
and then across the room to the laughing 
Violet, till finally he shrugged his shoulders 
as though he had come to the conclusion 
that women's ways were unguessable riddles, 
imposed mercilessly by the gods on men. 
At last, so utterly absent did he become, 
owing to his mental contemplations, that the 
little girl by his side did not fail to remark 
it, and extreme shyness being usually the 
result of a superabundance of pride, she 
felt hurt at his sudden inattention to her 
remarks, and starting up, sped briskly across 
the room to where her mother was sitting, 
and took shelter under her fostering wing. 
Mr Sivewright smiled a little sadly ; he was 
sorry he had scared the child from his side, 

VOL. I. o 



2 1 o Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

yet he could not resist being amused at the 
amount of womanHness already developing 
itself in that young nature — demanding ab- 
solute attention and devotion as a right. 
The vicar sat musing apart from the rest, 
till Violet Tremayne's gay tones recalled him 
to the circle round the tea-table, as in ban- 
tering accents she exclaimed, — 

' Mr Sivewright invariably finds matter 
wherewith to compose a sermon whenever 
he comes to Montarlis ; let us have the text 
of the next homily, reverend sir.' 

It was an impertinent challenge under all 
the circumstances, and Mr Sivewright re- 
garded it as such, and answered promptly, — 

* Loving goes by haps, 
Some Cupid kills by arrows, some with traps.' 

The ready answer occasioned a general 
laugh, though none perhaps save the 
duchess and Mrs Tremayne accepted the 
point. To the latter it evidently went 



Crackling Ice. 2 1 1 



straight home, and for a moment or two 
paralysed the power of repartee in which 
she was usually so strong ; she gave one 
searching look at the vicar which revealed 
all the deep fund of hatred of which her 
heart was capable, and, without even being 
a coward, Mr Sivewright might have quailed 
before the animosity he had awakened ; but 
he remained firm as granite, and gave the 
lady look for look, till, recovering her mo- 
mentary weakness, she said so gaily and 
adroitly as to make him almost like her for 
her cleverness, 

* Indeed, this is delightful ; let us have a 
rehearsal now — tell us all about it, Mr Sive- 
wright — have you been shot or caught, and 
by whom ? We thought him invulnerable, 
did not we, duchess ? But, after all, he 
would not be human if he were without his 
Achilles' heel ? ' 

But the duchess, though appealed to, only 
smiled somewhat sadly. She was not pleased 



2 12 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

at the fact of being compelled to receive 
Violet at Montarlis, not pleased with Mr 
Sivewright for calling almost public atten- 
tion to recent events, and seriously dis- 
pleased with circumstances for having pre- 
vented her from explaining matters fully to 
him she had selected as director and ad- 
viser, before this untoward meeting had 
occurred. But Violet went on, — 

* Now, Mr Sivewright, the sermon, if you 
please,' and she pushed a stately old-fashioned 
chair towards him, on which she begged him 
to be enthroned. 

Mr Sivewright declined the seat with a 
bow, and with mock gravity quietly placing 
himself behind the high chair she had offered, 
looked thoroughly en prone. 

Amusement was depicted on every face, 
save that of Violet, who looked defiant, 
and the duchess's, who seemed painfully 
anxious ; perhaps the vicar felt she might 
have trusted him, for though his eye fell 



Crackling Ice. 



on her lingeringly, he abated no jot of the 
ceremonial with which he accepted the func- 
tion imposed on him by Violet ; but looking 
from one to another at the knot of expectant 
listeners, he began, — 

' Spontaneous affection and sheer co- 
ercion, these are the two powerful motive 
forces which actuate the amiable or loving 
tendencies of man. Happy he or she, as 
the case may be, on whom the gift of spon- 
taneity Is conferred. The lucky indivi- 
dual has but to follow his good impulses 
and trust faithfully to the blind god who 
has bestowed them, that he will con- 
duct the suit he himself has instituted 
to a happy termination with his usual kind 
supervision. Far be It from us to cavil at or 
animadvert on godlike agencies. When, too, 
was Cupid ever known to play false ? ' 

Here the vicar was Interrupted by such 
a chorus of giggles as to stop his inter- 
pretations ; but not for a moment losing 



2 1 4 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

command over his own gravity, when they 
had somewhat ceased he proceeded, — 

* It is, on the contrary, to those who have 
fallen from their high estate in the love- 
god's favour that we would address a word 
of warning and advice. To those who, 
receiving no impulsive natural affection, elect 
to seek it at any cost, and erect a temple 
to Hymen even on the most impossible 
heights, amid rugged crags and on unculti- 
vated ground. To such individuals I would 
paternally say " Beware. " A union un- 
hallowed by Cupid reverts with dismal misery 
on him who sets the trap — for when was a 
poor limed bird ever known to submit un- 
flutteringly to its entanglement ; rather does 
it not take instant flight when the viscous 
substance by which it has been made cap- 
tive loses its adhesive qualities. And no 
glue, believe me, has yet been discovered 
that is impervious to every vacillating ten- 
dency of place and time. Stormy days will 



Cracklmg Ice. 2 1 5 



arrive, tidal waves will overflow the seem- 
ingly pleasant river banks ; sooner or later 
the bird will free himself without Cupid 
making one single effort to rivet the chain 
he had no hand in forging. But to illus- 
trate the subject. An instance has lately 
come to my knowledge which — ' 

' Really, Mr Sivewright, I cannot see — ' 
It was the duchess who spoke, but Mrs 
Tremayne stopped her. 

' Hush, Julia dear. Let him finish the 
illustration by all means. Mr Sivewright — 
the illustration. It will be especially in- 
teresting.' 

' In a fashionable foreign watering-place, 
some ten years ago, there was a young girl 
and a somewhat elderly man she called her 
father. Theirs was a well-worn tale of 
gambling, debt, and destitution/ 

' Mr Sivewright ! ' 

He paused and looked at Violet Tremayne 
as she uttered his name in exclamation. 



2 1 6 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Did you know this girl, Mrs Tremayne ? ' 

' I ? No. How should I ? But we 
scarcely asked for a picture.' 

* Still it is a true one. Shall I finish the 
sketch ? ' 

' Yes,' said a chorus of voices, among 
which the duchess and Mrs Tremayne were 
alone silent. 

He looked at her for a second very 
pointedly ; then at the duchess, whose coun- 
tenance still evinced a considerable amount 
of alarm ; finally he said, as if entirely giv- 
ing in,— 

' I must apologise, ladies, for taking up 
so much of your time and attention ; really 
I don't know what excuse I have to offer.' 

' You have told us nothing, Mr Sive- 
wright ; but do — ' exclaimed a curious old 
dame. Violet interrupted her. 

' Oh, he knows a set of horrible people ; 
don't ask him any more,' and she got up 
from the tea-table. * For my part, I think 



Crackling Ice. 2 1 7 



women who set men-traps are fools ; It is 
against them you were preaching, I believe. 
There is not a man living that one would 
not be much better without — your reverence 
included.' 

Everybody laughed a little falsely. 

Mr Sivewrlght's discourse perplexed their 
minds ; they could not quite see its object, 
though that it had one, the white face of 
the duchess too plainly testified. Violet 
made a diversion, and putting on her hat, 
said she was going on the terrace to look 
at the sunset. She was soon followed by 
the rest of the party, and for a brief space 
the duchess and Mr Sivewrlght were left 
alone. 

' How could you walk on crackling ice — 
for what purpose ? ' she asked hurriedly. 

* At any cost Mrs Tremayne must no 
longer be domiciled here. How could you 
ask her to come back after that balloon 
business ? I must speak to the duke.' 



2 1 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

' My dear friend, you will not — you must 
not. If you are going to fail me, to whom 
shall I turn for assistance ? I am powerless 
to coerce Violet Tremayne. She mtcst be 
here, and instead of helping me to stem 
difficulties, you have made her your mortal 
enemy. Oh, Mr Sivewright, advise me ; 
what am I to do ? ' 

' I do not understand.' 

' Mrs Tremayne holds a secret of mine ; 
unless I keep her in the position of my 
bosom friend, she will reveal it to my hus- 
band.' 

* Outwit her by telling him yourself,' said 
the vicar promptly. 

* Oh, I dare not — I dare not. Have not 
I limed an eagle, and I cannot bear to be 
cast ignominiously from my eyrie. For 
mercy's sake, out of friendship to me, leave 
Violet's affairs alone, and let her arrange 
them as she will — ' 

' Let her marry George Desborough, you 



Crackling Ice. 2 1 9 



mean ; considering my strong personal in- 
timacy with his family, it would scarcely be 
a friendly action on my part ; knowing what 
I do—' 

* Mr Sivewright, I beseech you to be 
silent for my sake,' and the duchess's velvety 
hand was laid on the vicar's wrist. The 
Rev. Lawrence Sivewright was but human ; 
notwithstanding his sacred calling, could he 
resist this woman's pleading ? He took her 
hand in his own, with the air of a man to 
whom it was no unusual occurrence, but the 
merry troop from the terrace came laugh- 
ing into the room in total forgetfulness of 
the riddle which had been propounded, so 
the vicar could not speak. When some half- 
hour later he went away, it was with a 
graver more thoughtful expression of face 
than when Mrs Giles had watched him 
leisurely riding up the road. 



-'>m:^^m^ 



CHAPTER XIV. 



A QUEER BARGAIN. 




,T is the morning succeeding the 
unusually interrupted tea - chat, 
when, dressed d la vivandiere in 
blue and red flannel, Violet Tremayne is 
standing alone on the terrace which over- 
looks the gardens at Montarlis. She hides 
her eyes with her hand and looks through 
the trees, nearly bereft of foliage, as though 
seeking to distinguish some object in the 
far distance ; with an impatient gesture at 
its non-appearance she paces rapidly up and 
down, and then stops to look once more in 
the same direction. After repeating this 
manoeuvre two or three times, she runs 



A Queer Bargain. 2 2 1 

swiftly down the steps at the farther end 
of the balcony, and crossing the wide lawn 
without looking round, she speedily disap- 
pears from the view of any one who may 
have been watching her from the windows 
of the house. 

Mrs Tremayne's movements, ever eccen- 
tric and erratic, do not as a rule create much 
observation from those who are accustomed 
to her habits. They have too frequently in- 
vestigated some seemingly mysterious doings 
on her part, to be simply repaid by the 
information that she had no especial object 
for her behaviour, to trouble themselves 
about her goings and comings. Some of 
her friends had arrived at the conclusion 
that she was just a little cracked ; while 
the servants and dependants at Montarlis 
decided that it was ' only Mrs Tremayne's 
way,' and attached no importance to any un- 
usual circumstance in connection with her. 
No one guessed that it was part of Violet's 



2 2 2 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

plan of life ; she argued that a hundred well 
acted mysteries, which are no mysteries at 
all, enable the hundred and first, being a 
reality, to escape without remark. 

The occasion presents itself now, and 
Violet has judged rightly. 

* There goes Mrs Tremayne down into 
the wood,' the butler remarks to the valet ; 
' she'll come back at luncheon time with 
those big pockets full of nuts, and try to per- 
suade every one she has had an adventure ; ' 
and so the subject is dropped, while Violet 
still speeds on, never stopping for a second 
till she is quite half-a-mile from the house. 

This time she has a bond fide assignation ; 
and with none other than Mr Varley, the 
Cheap Jack of Hurton market-place. Violet 
was too accustomed to utilise the crooked bits 
and ends of life to let so available an oddity 
as Mr Varley press himself as it were 
into her service without retaining him. The 
heart of man is prone to sudden and way- 



A Qtceer Bargain. 223 

ward likings, and Cheap Jack had formed 
one of these for Mrs Tremayne, when 
he saw her for the first time starting 
on her balloon journey with George Des- 
borough. 

' A queer fondness for a unit like me to 
have for a lady born/ as he himself ex- 
pressed it ; but then he could not guess how 
much of the gipsy there was in both their 
natures, producing probably the affinity. It 
was the first time he had seen Violet since 
her return to Montarlis, though more than 
one interview had taken place in London. 

' Well, Jack, how are you ? ' 

They had grown quite familiar — that was 
obvious from Violet's greeting as she ap- 
proached the large elm close to which Mr 
Varley was standing. He had left his gay 
little equipage in the main road, with the 
tiny tiger in charge, and himself habited in 
his usual blue blouse and velvet cap was 
awaiting the lady's arrival. 



2 24 Sackcloth and Broadcloth, 

He pulled his cap off as he heard her 
voice and made a deep salaam. 

He did not seem surprised at her off- 
handedness — it was a way she had which 
was so essentially a portion of herself that 
few people presumed to cavil at it, and 
assuredly the exception was not likely to be 
her new acquaintance Mr Varley. 

' You executed my commission beautifully/ 
she said, ' gave my little parcel to the duchess 
her very own self.' 

* Yes, my lady, and a rare bit of luck it 
was to meet her grace walking alone with 
the dogs down near the pond yonder.' 

' Yes, I know — she told me ; and how did 
she look when she opened the letter ? ' 

* Rather skeered like. I was really sorry 
when I saw it wasn't a pleasant packet' 

' Poor Julia — poor Julia, but she'll get over 
it, she'll have to bear annoyance like other 
folk ; you and I don't escape, do we — eh, 
Jack?' 



A Queer Bargain. 225 

Varley shuffled and looked shy, the flatter- 
ing way in which she seemed to place him 
on an equality with herself quite overpowered 
him. 

Mrs Tremayne laughed, and asked him 
what she owed him for all the trouble he 
had taken ; but the pained expression of the 
man's face stopped her before she had reached 
quite the end of her sentence. 

' Nothing, my lady — nothing. I am quite 
repaid by your having granted me the honour 
of this interview.* 

' Good gracious ! Well, you are easily 
satisfied. I'd come here every day in the 
week if you would transact all my business 
for me for that small payment.' 

' I am always to command if there is any 
business to do and I am in these parts ; 
what's more, I'd stop in these parts if I 
thought as you wanted me.' 

For the first time it occurred to Violet as 
she looked at him, that she had inspired a 

VOL. I. p 



2 26 Sackcloth mid B7^oadcloth. 

grande passion. She did not flinch from 
the idea with repugnance, as it behoved 
her position to have done ; alas ! no, she 
put it down instantly on her list of con- 
quests, feeling a little flattered and very 
largely amused. Montarlis was not unfre- 
quently dull to one who, like Violet, objected 
to the perpetual strictness of high life — here 
was a charming valve, by which she might 
get rid of any amount of monotony : she 
resolved at once to improve the occasion, 
and sitting down on the bough of an old 
tree which lay on the ground close to her, 
she invited Mr Varley to give her some 
account of the mode in which he passed 
his life. Garrulity was his wonted forte, 
though he would not have acknowledged 
it : but on this occasion Cheap Jack was 
a little serious, and consequently inclined 
to be silent, — though to most men Violet 
Tremayne sitting in a very degagde attitude 
on the old tree would have been scarcely 



A Qtieer Bargain. 227 

an awe-strlklng picture. She was too im- 
pertinent in her ways to make her lovers 
very distant. 

* Well, you travel all over the country in 
that trap, and you carry your wares under- 
neath it, and you have no troubles, no cares, 
no anxieties ; how I envy you. Heigh ho ! 
If we could but change places.' 

Cheap Jack raised his eyes for a moment 
and looked at her with something of a flash ; 
then he said with some bitterness, — 

' My life is hard enough at times — not 
one for such as you to envy. When 
times Is bad, its bad fare as the liges of 
us gets, and when they're good 'taint every 
public as Is open to receive us. Some 
folk's money isn't as good as others in this 
world.' 

* Oh, how delightful ! that's just what is so 
charming — uncertainty. I've often thought 
I should like to live in a gipsy's covered 
cart and go about the country.' 



2 2 8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

* When you do, may I be servant and 
put you up to the tricks of the trade.' 

' Agreed.' And Violet laughed merrily as 
she sat swinging herself backwards and for- 
wards on the old tree, delighting In the 
storm she saw full well she was awaking 
In this man's breast' 

* I suppose you know most of the people 
about here ? ' she asked after a short pause. 

' Gentle and simple, my lady, for the most 
part. But where's the neighbourhood that 
Jack Varley don't know the folk. More 
about their histories too sometimes than 
they know themselves.' 

' I daresay, I daresay. In which case It 
is better to be your friend than your foe,' 
and Violet laughed a little nervously. 

' It ain't much as I says,' he answered. 
'I'm a man of few words 'cept when I'm 
forced perfesslonally to puff my wares. 
If I talked more I shouldn't hear so 
much.' 



A Queer Bargain. 229 

'It is quite wonderful how you make 
up all those beautiful speeches about your 
goods. I heard you once in Hurton market- 
place,' said Violet flatteringly. 

* Don't I look like it ? ' and he dropped 
his voice almost to a whisper as he spoke. 
* Me ? Lor' bless ye, lady, I couldn't do it. 
It's a blind man as lives in a court out of 
St Paul's Churchyard in London as com- 
poses they puffs. It's a trade as well as 
another. I gets 'em into my head while I 
am having my solitary dinner or driving 
along the roads in my shay.' 

' I'll write you one,' cried Violet, * such a 
puff; it will bring you In pounds. Oh! 
what fun ; and in return — ' 

' Whatever I can do for your ladyship 
for all your favours, your ladyship is to 
command,' and Mr Varley took to shuffling 
his feet once more, as though this new mark 
of Violet's esteem was quite too much for 
his nervous susceptibilities. 



230 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Well, in return you shall do whatever I 
bid you — always.' 

He took off his velvet cap and bowed, 
thus tacitly declaring his determination to do 
her bidding. 

It was a strange compact, and one from 
which most women in Mrs Tremayne's posi- 
tion would have flinched ; but to Violet a 
love of excitement and out-of-the-way ad- 
venture was so strangely mixed up with a 
strong desire to keep her place in society, 
that she looked upon the whole thing as a 
rare joke. Balloon travelling had evidently 
not given her a sufficient warning ; since she 
was once more at Montarlis she imagined 
she had got over that little difficulty, not- 
withstanding Mr Sivewright's inuendoes. 

Could she not utilise this man perhaps 
to pay off some of the grudges she owed 
the duchess's reverend friend ? Ay, there was 
a question involving immense issues she 
thought, as she got up from her rather 



A Queer Bargain. 



uncomfortable seat and held out her hand 
to the astonished Cheap Jack, who merely 
touched it with the tips of his fingers, so 
unaccustomed was he to have anything so 
fair and dainty presented to him. 

* I must go now, but I'll see you again 
here next Monday. We shall be going to 
London soon ; there is a marriage and some 
festivities in prospect, to which all the Mont- 
arlis party is going.' 

And so they parted. Cheap Jack going 
rather thoughtfully in the direction of his 
little cart, Mrs Tremayne tripping through 
the wood singing the refrain of a light 
French song, and looking as pleased over 
her anomalous rencontre as though her new 
admirer were a prince in disguise. 

The sound of a gun being fired off close 
to her made her start. 

* What ! shooting this covert. I thought 
you were miles away,' she said as several 
men, the duke and George Desborough 



232 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

among them, came plunging through some 
brushwood and stood before her. 

* It is kicky you did not have an eye put 
out or your hand shot off,' said the duke. 

* Whoever expected to meet you here ? ' 

' I never wish anybody to know where 
they may expect to meet me,' she answered 
laughing. * Life is far too short to be 
arranged by rule and rote. How do you do, 
Mr Desborough .^ When last we met 'twas 
in a balloon.' 

George coloured up — her cool effrontery 
somewhat abashed him ; and the duke 
scowled and went on — the mention of that 
episode invariably made him angry — it was 
entirely out of drawing ; that is, as the pic- 
ture of human life should be sketched 
according to his views. 

' It is not my fault that we have not met,' 
George whispered as the duke walked away. 

* Why do you so cruelly forbid me all sight 
of you ? ' 



A Queer Bargain. 233 

' Perhaps an account of that hydra-headed 
termagant — gossip — perhaps, because the less 
you see of me the more you will pine for 
my society.' 

' Oh, Mrs Tremayne, how cold and 
untrue.' 

* Untrue ! Oh no, believe me, Mr Des- 
borough, I know your sex better than 
you do yourself, though you are one of 
them.' 

' Only tell me that you care for me just a 
little, and I will patiently attend your bid- 
ding and wait the probationary time.' 

* Care for you ; It will take me all that 
time to read my heart — six months, was it 
not ? I am not so quick at mastering a 
subject as you are.' 

' Ah, Violet — Violet, you are seeking to 
deceive yourself and me. If you do not love 
me, why are you here now ? ' 

' Not to meet you — on my oath — though I 
like you all the better for suggesting it ; 



2 34 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

most men In your position would conceitedly 
have thought that I wandered this way on 
the chance of an Interview, while you have 
been honest enough to charge me with It. I 
will be equally plain-spoken with you — I 
came on a totally different errand.' 

* To meet some one else ? ' 

' Perhaps — ' she laughed gaily ; ' but see, 
the duke and the others have gone on — they 
are nearly out of sight ; you seem absolutely 
bent on compromising me.' 

And before he had time to utter another 
word she ran off, trilling once more the 
refrain of the old French song, and leaving 
him with that pregnant word ' perhaps ' 
rankling in his mind 




CHAPTER XV. 

DOTES YET DOUBTS.' 




^!jii in her mother's room at Swanover 
Cottage. She is watching the 
fitful flames as they come and go in a wood 
fire, which has been hghted for her especial 
benefit — more as a companion than on 
account of chilliness ; but from the circlets 
round her eyes it is obvious that her 
thoughts scarcely go with her glance, but 
are dwelling on some dismal subject in 
connection with her own trials in life. 
Matthew has gone ! A presentiment of evil 
came to Claire with the knowledge that 
he was to be sent away, but the last fare- 
wells have been said. He regards the 



236 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



parting only as a brief cessation of their 
daily walks ; not as a broken cord, but as an 
elastic band which stretched at will returns 
forthwith to Its former limit. Alas ! how 
often do not even elastic bands Increase 
In size by stretching, and sometimes snap 
at a fragile touch. To Claire, for some 
indefinable reason which she could not have 
explained, even to her mother, It seemed as 
though the cord-elastic — call It what you 
will — had already snapped. She had seen 
Matthew come and go during his many 
Oxford vacations, and had fed her pets as 
usual, visited her poor as she was wont — 
now, she lay passively there and cared to 
take interest In naught. True, she had not 
loved Matthew in those days, or rather she 
had not owned her love ; but did It not lie 
hidden In her heart, however much she 
might seek to Ignore its presence ? 

Matthew had gone, to come back no 
more. Oh, bodily in the flesh, he would 



' Dotes yet Doubts! 237 

be Instinct with life, she had no apprehension 
of his speedy dissolution ; but that he would 
be hers— her very own to care for and to 
caress she doubted. Some phantom — some 
grim shadowy phantom — ^seemed to stand 
before her, as though presiding over the 
destinies of the man she loved. Lady 
Laura said but little — what could she say ? 
She shared all too fully her daughter's views, 
and dreaded even more than she did the 
influence which she felt sure would be 
brought to bear on Matthew in London. 

She was sitting reading, or pretending to 
read, in the window, while Claire with 
swollen eyes and aching brow was contem- 
plating the flaming fuel. At last the girl 
jumped up with a sudden energy. 

' Mamma, this is wrong and wicked. 
Matthew would be quite angry if he saw 
me so dispirited ; let us go out.' 

The maternal book was closed on the 
instant. 



2^8 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 



J 



' Yes, my love, the air will, I am sure, do 
you good. Why you are so down-hearted 
I can't think ' (in her heart she knew full 
well). ' Matthew has only gone away for a 
little while.' 

' He has gone for ever. Some one may 
come back, but it will not be Matthew ; 
and what is a shell without the kernel ? ' 

' These are mere superstitious fancies, 
child ; what has he said to make you 
imagine these things ? ' 

* Nothing, mother ; but don't you think 
that the people among whom Matthew has 
been sent will teach him more of philo- 
sophy than love, and that after he has been 
a few weeks in this new world which 
Mr Sivewright has discovered for him, I 
shall appear a poor little ignorant country 
mouse, possessing no power to attract or 
please him.' 

' Claire, if you have so mean an opinion 
of Matthew Desborough's faith and self- 



* Dotes yet Doubts! 239 

reliance, how Is It you love him, my 
child ? ' 

' Because the heart Is wayward, I suppose, 
and will not be guided by the mind's convic- 
tion. I love Matthew because I love him, 
not altogether because I trust him. Ah me ! ' 

' My daughter, my Claire, it is a fearful 
thing that you are saying ; you love without 
trust, without belief. It is the most danger- 
ous rock against which a woman can dash 
her earthly happiness.' 

' I know it mother — know it, oh, so well. 
Have I not fought against it, been scared 
by Matthew's addresses, prayed, wept when 
you knew nothing of my feelings ? But the 
love was strongest, and I had to yield. If 
I die of misery I can resist no more.' 

' But why should you doubt him, Claire. 
He is good and kind and manly — above 
all, possessed of a strong religious faith. 
He is almost too much of an enthusiast 
in fact.' 



240 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

' Ah, mother, his zeal is hot but his faith 
is weak. Matthew must have a code to 
which to trust for guidance and support. 
Pray God it may always be the true one.' 

Lady Laura looked at Claire in some sur- 
prise ; she had never before known that her 
little daughter possessed such analytical dis- 
crimination ; true, Claire had always been a 
quiet thoughtful child, and perhaps from the 
very fact that she had habituated herself from 
infancy to think much and talk but little of 
her feelings, was she the more capable of 
shaping them into words, now that under the 
influence of a great excitement she felt the 
necessity of revealing her inmost thoughts to 
her mother. 

' Give sorrow words ; the grief that does not speak, 
Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.' 

' What reason have you to think that 
Matthew will fall away from his faith, my 
Claire ? ' 

* Because he wants strength of purpose, 



' Dotes yet Doubts. ' 241 

mother, and is easily led by the opinions of 
those around him.' 

' Yet he is clever,' murmured rather than 
said Lady Laura. 

' Too clever, perhaps,' answered poor 
Claire dolefully ; * if he did not seek to know 
too much, he would be more satisfied with 
what he has already learned.' 

* You love Matthew, yet you do not respect 
him. You regard him as weak and vacillat- 
ing. Oh, Claire, it is a miserable picture ; 
strange too that Mr Sivewright should form 
the same judgment.' 

* Has he—' 

But Lady Laura's question remained un- 
asked. Claire's head was turned away, lying 
among the sofa cushions, and she was sob- 
bing as though her heart would break. 

* They will take him from me in London,' 
she cried. * Mr Sivewright knows full well 
the effect absence will have on Matthew.' 

' But Claire, listen to reason ; you have 

VOL. I. Q 



242 Sackcloth a7id Broadcloth. 

promised to be this man's wife ; he is pledged 
to you by every law of honour. If a few 
months' absence makes him break his word, 
how do you think it would stand a life test, 
my child ? Be brave, my little girl, true to 
yourself — true to your womanhood. If Mat- 
thew is unfaithful to his allegiance, call on 
your pride for armour. It is a woman's 
glorious panoply, my daughter, and woe 
be to her who allows it to be trampled 
under her feet ; for she loses both her self- 
respect and the respect of her fellows.' 

Claire sat up while her mother was talking, 
and wiping the large drops from her eyes, 
looked at her almost vacantly, as though the 
weight of all this reasoning were too much 
for her aching heart and head. 

* I will do my best,' she said after a short 
pause, ' and, mother, you will help me, will 
you not ? ' Lady Laura's arms were round her, 
and the aching bewildered head was laid on the 
truest heart that would ever beat for Claire. 



' Dotes yet Doubts J 243 

Yet Lady Laura felt she must be * cruel 
only to be kind.' Nursing Claire's sick fan- 
cies was scarcely the way to cure them, so 
she bade her daughter bathe her face in fresh 
cold water, put on her hat and come out. 

' We will go and see some of our poor 
pensioners,' she said ; ' by witnessing their, 
sufferings, perhaps w^e shall be enabled to 
forget our own. We will not talk of Matthew 
any more.' 

The girl, accustomed to obey her mother's 
slightest wishes, complied at once. In the 
course of half-an-hour they were going the 
tour of the cottages, Lady Laura talking on 
every subject which she thought was likely 
to interest Claire ; but it was almost hopeless, 
the girl's white face and pre-occupied look 
disheartened the mother, who already re- 
gretted the day when the thunder-storm had 
brought about that unexpected interview. 
Coming back through the little wood they 
met Mr Lently — Father Lently as he elected 



244 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

to be called by his parishioners. He lifted 
his laree soft clerical wide-a-wake when he 
saw them, perhaps feeling as much as they 
did that it was an unfortunate meeting ; but 
considering the parochial relations which 
existed between them, there was no alterna- 
tive but to stop. 

Lady Laura had had no conversation 
with Mr Lently on the subject of Matthew 
Desborough, but she knew, partly by in- 
tuition and partly from hints Matthew him- 
self had dropped, that some of the recent 
occurrences were in accordance with the 
vicar's views of seemliness and well-doing. 
Perhaps she scarcely wished to discuss the 
subject with him, and had consequently kept 
out of his way ; be it as it might, she held 
her hand out to him with all cordiality — a 
cordiality which was in no wise reciprocated 
in the vicar's manner. He merely touched 
her fingers lightly, as he said harshly, — 

' I have just been to Swanover. I wish 



' Dotes yet Dottbts' 245 

to have a little conversation v^Ith you about 
our young friend Matthew Desborough, 
over whom It seems you have of late been 
gaining an undue amount of Influence.' 

* Some other time I shall be very happy,' 
answered Lady Laura stiffly, making an 
effort to save Claire from an unpleasant dis- 
cussion. 

* Some other time, Lady Laura ; do you 
not know that by procrastination a living 
soul may be lost ? ' 

' Full well do I know it,' she said warmly. 
* Yet I scarcely realise that any conversation 
you and I may have about Matthew touches 
on so grave a subject.' 

' Have you not been instrumental in send- 
ing him to London, in order that, away from 
my teaching, he may be more amenable to 
your views ? ' 

' The question is so injurious as to be 
almost insulting,' and Lady Laura reddened, 
as she drew herself up proudly. 



246 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

He seemed somewhat astonished ; in the 
character of the good, benevolent, amiable 
Lady Laura, he had forgotten to look for the 
substratum of pride which she, however, 
knew full well how to lay bare at will. Be- 
fore he had time to make any remark, she 
went on, — 

' You will kindly allow me to postpone 
the discussion of this subject ; fix any 
hour you like, and I will grant you an 
interview.' 

Lady Laura dictating terms and time to 
that arch-autocrat, the Vicar of Ravensholme, 
was so utterly paradoxical that, strange to 
say, from its very novelty, it was blandly 
received. 

' To-morrow after matins,' he said, as he 
once more lifted his soft hat. 

Lady Laura bowed and passed on, 
followed by Claire, who looked utterly 
bewildered. 



* Dotes yet Doubts. ' 247 

Mr Lently had never even looked at her, 
and to find herself thoroughly ignored by her 
pastor was another drop of bitterness added 
to the cup, which was filling all too com- 
pletely for poor Claire's powers of endur- 
ance. 

* Mamma, what does it mean ? Have I 
done anything wicked ? ' she asked as soon 
as Mr Lently was out of hearing. 

* You ? — no, my child. It means that you 
and Matthew are being made the victims of 
the dissensions which are rending our poor 
dear English Church. Rival opinions are 
fighting for Matthew — poor Matthew ! May 
he have strength to bear the brunt of the 
conflict ! ' 

* Oh, mamma ! how very dreadful it all is ! 
What can I do ? ' 

' Nothing, Claire, but pray and be patient ; 
be true to your faith and to yourself, and if, 
as God grant may not prove the case, you 



248 Sackcloth and Broadcloth. 

have drawn a blank in the great lottery of 
life, remember you will not be the first 
woman who has suffered for her love's 
sake.' 



END OF VOL I. 



COLSTON AND SON, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH. 




y_yj?y;''^./2^_''ZMf'i//^'m/2''.